Frank Herbert’s Dune is such a good book that it transcended being a bad audiobook.
For many years I’ve put off reading Dune. I’m not really sure why, perhaps because it was big, perhaps because it was adored by so many fans. I know it felt like an overwhelming prospect. But since I’ve decided that I really should read more classic sci-fi, I checked out the audiobook (again, I love OverDrive) and gave it a go over the holidays.
Dune itself was amazing. It lived up to its promise. The characters and world were richly nuanced and the plot was exciting. I plan to continue reading the rest a little later this year, after I’ve caught up on the Miles Vorkosigan novels.
I found myself asking a lot of questions about gender and wondering how certain aspects of this book would’ve been received at the time. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can articulate those reflections yet. Reading the rest of the Dune series may help.
Now…about the audiobook. The audiobook is done in a style which I’ve rarely seen executed well. There is one primary narrator to read the text and a series of voice actors read the actual dialog. I believe that things like “he said” and “she said” are cut out, though the narrator will tell us if it’s something more complicated.
I don’t know if the actors could’ve helped it. I wish some had been cast differently, but others would’ve probably been good if the recording hadn’t been choppy. It felt more like watching a video game’s cutscene than listening to a book. Video games sometimes have good voice actors too, but it was the choppy, broken-up quality that made me think it. Probably because they were trying to combine voice acting with audiobook reading, or because of recording issues, or simply because of the nature of this kind of audiobook.
The first hour was painful. My brain couldn’t settle into it. But I pushed on because we didn’t have an EPUB version for my Nook and I wasn’t feeling up to lugging Dune on the metro. After the first CD or so, the plot drew me in and I didn’t want to stop. After a few more CDs, I hardly noticed the problems, even though I was still aware enough to know that the actual recording hadn’t improved. The book was like a juggernaut, drawing me onward.
In the end, I enjoyed the whole thing very much. I don’t look forward to encountering the same thing in the next audiobooks, but I think I’m used enough to it that my brain won’t protest, so long as the cast is the same.
Do I recommend it? I recommend the book very much, it deserves its accolades. It’s a great piece of sci-fi.
As for the audiobook, I recommend it if that’s the only way you’ll be able to get through the story. It may be tough at first, but the story is good enough to make putting up with the voices more and more bearable until you don’t care about anything but the plot.
Anyone else listened to the Dune audiobook? Did you make it through or give up?