Tuesday, March 2, 2010

9. Dune by Frank Herbert

This time, I opted for a re-read on my long bus trip to Barcelona. Dune, in my opinion, is to science fiction as Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. Frank Herbert created a world that can stand entirely on its own, possibly even more so than Middle Earth, and achieves the great feat where so many authors falter: a book with rich characters that do not suffer at the expense of the plot, and vise versa.

Paul Atreides comes from a long line of honorable, loyal Atreides Dukes on his father's side and a mysterious and powerful female organization, the Bene Gesserit, on his mother's side. When their family is given the planet Arrakis, or Dune, to hold for the Empire, the only planet where the universe's most powerful commodity, the spice melange is harvested, they know it is a ploy on the part of their ancient enemies the Harkonnens, particularly the current head of the family, the diabolical Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. When inevitable tragedy strikes, Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica, are forced to brave the desert and the curious desert people, the Fremen.

On this reading, I focused on how and why Paul fulfills the legends of the Bene Gesserit and the Fremen, and how he accepts and rejects the role. I paid more attention to figuring out the fictitious origins of religions and how they are related. I also could now look at a lot of the characters with more of their histories in mind, after reading Dune: House Atreides, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. Of course, Dune was the original book, so I also think those two interpreted some of them wrong.

I'm glad Dune was still gripping to read and I could still respect the writing content and style. I think I must have been twelve the last time I read it, and it would have been a shame to lose my fond memories. Now, the only problem is I want to read the entire series again!

10. The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan

I just like each Amy Tan book I read better than the last. Even though this book reminded me strongly of the other two books of hers I have read, The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter's Daughter, all three concern Chinese mothers and daughters and the mother's secret shameful history of oppression, this book tied together better and held some very keen observations about life and people.

The passage that made me want to yell, "So true! So true!" was this one:

"I saw that my husband did this laughing-scaring game not just with me, but with his friends. And I also began to see that what he did was wrong, cruel, but no one else seemed to see this.

...He accused and tormented, shouted and threatened. And just at that point when you did not know which way to move, he took the danger away, became kind and forgiving, laughing and happy. Back and forth, this way and that. Of course, we were confused, fooled into thinking we always wanted to please him (223)."

Maybe it's not good, but I read Amy Tan and find her oddly comforting for moments like that, when someone else seems to understand the subtle, nasty things people can do to you with or without realizing it. Things that you feel and find difficult to acknowledge. Things that make you feel guilty, even if you don't know why. When Tan says it aloud, it's like she's releasing it for you.

I also liked the legend of the Kitchen God's wife and how this mother and daughter actually do get closer at the end.

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