by Frank Herbert
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Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud'dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream. A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction. Frank Herbert's death in 1986 was a tragic loss, yet the astounding legacy of his visionary fiction will live forever.
There is little to say about Dune itself; it is one of the masterpieces of 20th-century science fiction. And as an unabridged audiobook, this performance misses none of the intrigue and complexity of the source material. If you are here considering whether to get this audiobook, you know this, or at least have been told this. The problem is this: part of the performance is voiced by a full cast, in which voice actors other than the narrator speak the dialogue of their characters as it arises in the book. They do an excellent job of it (particularly the actor voicing Baron Harkonnen). However, in other parts of the performance the narrator reads both the narrative and the spoken lines which otherwise would be performed by the voice actors. This is incredibly jarring, and given that the "full cast" performance is mixed and scattered with the "solo performance" (switching "modes" every few minutes), it makes what is already a very complex story all the harder to follow. Worse still, the interpretations of the characters are markedly different between the primary narrator's version and the individual actors' versions. While neither interpretation is necessarily "wrong", it is another inconsistency. I don't know why the producers of this audiobook did what they did. If it was a budgetary issue, they should have simply gone with the solo narrator; he does a good job and could have carried the entire work. If this was just an attempt to be "artsy", the attempt failed, and harmed the ability of the listener to follow the story in the process. And upon self-review of the finished work, they should have realized this. This is a shame, as a book of this magnitude is not going to get "remakes" of the reading; it's too large a project, and given the source book's stature, transfer of the production rights would be very expensive. This reading is the only one we will get for a long, long time, and it is deeply (and unnecessarily) flawed. I cannot recommend it.
I completely agree with the above reviewer that the audiobook is almost ruined by the production company's decision to mix actors with narrator. The description the reviewer gives is accurate: the narrator is very good; the individual actors are superb in their interpretations; mixing the two styles of audiobook without a discernable logical reason is maddening. Listening to the book (having never read it before and not knowing the details of the story beforehand), I found myself being drawn into the wonderful acting, dialogue, and story one moment and, on a number of occasions, yelling at the iPod while driving in my car the next as (for example) the Baron Harkonnen would go from sounding like Darth Vader to an English subject with cotton in his mouth. Even better was when Duke Leto Atreides would speak like an American and then think to himself like a Brit. They seriously thought this was a good idea? The only reason I can think of (and I would have to actually look at the book and compare with the audio to know for sure) is that they used the narrator to do dialogue when there was a lot of "he said" "she said" types of tags. If that was the case, they should have taken the tags out completely and, with the respective actors saying the dialogue and the narrator doing everything else, it would have added greatly to the production. If you're going to make it like a play, then do it all the way; otherwise stick to one reader. The book, of course, is excellent.
Benchmark for all science fiction/fantasy books
What a literary masterpiece book. Never before have I experienced such a deep detailed immersion into a book that has kept my interest spanning several books into this series. Frank Herbert takes us on beautiful journey into the world of science fiction with his universe that is mired with political intrigue, religious zealots, and unpredictable twists. This is a highly intelligent book that is the first step in a very pleasurable experience that encompasses many following works. I would encourage this book for those who view life and the world as a more complicated place because this will appeal to your senses of the unspoken language and nuisances within the human dynamics of communication. If you are a simple person seeing the world in black and white with no imagination or need to be spoon fed everything, you will not like this book. Frank Herbert is truly a visionary pioneer of science fiction/fantasy, and thank God he was given the gift to articulate his incredible visions that is the world of Dune in such a way that one really appreciates the subtleties of the human element.