Audible Pleasure – Dune and Dune Messiah

As mentioned in my last post, I have just finished listening to the Audible version of Dune Messiah.

I was reluctant to try Audible – but overall I would say it’s been positive. The main advantage has been a gain in “reading” time. I have more and more trouble finding time to read these days – when I have some spare time I usually end up writing before I start reading.

Audible has helped bridge that gap. On work days, I have at least an hour and a half commute. As its driving, I can’t read but I can listen.

But there is a weird effect when listening. The reader has a great impact – in ways you might not expect. Obviously, a bad reader would spoil any book but it becomes more subtle than that.

I recently listened to Rendezvous With Rama (Arthur C Clarke). Now that story is not brilliant – not bad but not up there among my favourites. However, the reader (Toby Longworth) was excellent. He really brought the story to life – so I enjoyed the Audible version more than reading the book.

In comparison – I also started listening to The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell. That is a book I loved – one of my favourites! I found I couldn’t listen to this one. Something about the reader (Jonathon Keeble) just didn’t chime with me. It was not that he was bad. He has a good voice, reads well and has good contrast when changing characters. I can’t even put my finger on what it is that I didn’t like. Maybe it was that his tone or his way of interpreting the characters was different from what I had imagined in my head – though I can’t point a finger at any particular example of that.

Which brings me to the two Dune books.

Dune – read by Scott Brick – is in some way for me a conjoining of brilliance. Frank Herbert’s Dune is a strong contender for my favourite book of all time. It’s a masterpiece, it changed the way I think. I could go on – but I am not reviewing the book, just talking about the Audible effect.

So I was ecstatic that Scott Brick’s reading seemed to be the perfect fit. Again, I can’t really say why but he just fits. Maybe his tone and interpretation are on the same wavelength as me? Or maybe he pulls off something amazing and manages to breathe life and colour into the characters without impinging on my interpretation? Whatever the answer I would kill to have that skill.

So what about Dune Messiah?

Now while good, it’s a more difficult listen than Dune. Worth it but more difficult.

There are two reasons for this, the first is the reading. Scott Brick returns and is just as good. For some reason, this time, there are other readers interspersed. Some whole chapters are read by different people. Now while there is nothing wrong with them as readers – the switching grates, especially as one of them insists on pronouncing names and places completely differently than the rest.

The second reason is the book itself. Dune Messiah is in some way the weakest of the whole series. There’s a reason for that. It is a transitional book. It is tying up Dune and setting up the next book Children of Dune.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Dune Messiah was originally part of Dune and that the publishers made Herbert split it into two. I don’t know the reasons why but I can hazard two guesses. Firstly – it would have made Dune, already a long book even longer. Secondly, it would have given it a much more downbeat ending.

Cutting Dune Messiah off the end of Dune has had the effect though of many people missing the point of Dune.

It has been said that Star Wars was a rip-off of Dune. That they took the plot, dumbed it down for the masses and served up a blockbuster.

I don’t think that’s true. What I believe is that both Frank Herbert and George Lucas used the writings of Joseph Campbell about mythology. They both took his outline of a certain mythological common plot line and applied to their stories.

In George Lucas’s case, this was because he knew it would chime with people – it would echo stories they had heard all their lives. It would make his story familiar and comforting and it worked.

On reading Dune  – or watching the awful film adaptation – you might conclude the same about Frank Herbert. Dune Messiah though reveals the truth. Herbert is moving with much deeper motives. Dune Messiah shows how he was subverting that mythological story line. He was showing how easy it is to fall in love with a hero who follows the correct pattern.

Dune Messiah shows the consequences – the terrible dangers of hero-worship and the dark, dark places that it leads too.

Dune Messiah is a harder read, and harder listen but taken as a whole with Dune – worth it!

I haven’t listened to Children of Dune yet – but I have read it and I can only say that it adds more awesomeness to the series.

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