Thematic/Narrative Structure of the Dune Chronicles

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Redstar
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Thematic/Narrative Structure of the Dune Chronicles

Postby Redstar » 28 Mar 2014 01:33

I was discussing the Dune series with someone online a few days ago. This person stated that they only enjoyed the first three novels because, in their opinion, the rest only served in expanding the mythology of the universe rather than continue the narrative in any meaningful fashion.

Obviously I disagreed. I was just about to respond with my previously expressed idea that the series can be divided in three parts, with Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune comprising the first, God-Emperor of Dune the second and Heretics of Dune/Chapterhouse: Dune the third when I realized that I no longer felt this to be accurate.

While it does make some sense narratively, I began to consider that the series probably makes better sense when divided thematically, with Dune/Dune Messiah being the first, Children of Dune/God-Emperor of Dune the second and Heretics of Dune/Chapterhouse: Dune the third.

The unique aspect of Frank's writing was that he was not afraid to disrupt the status quo of his universe. It becomes very clear as the timeline develops that he would not maintain a cultural stasis within the Empire. How many other writers in science-fiction/fantasy have done that since? Most seem to write whole trilogies, if not dozens of books, simply progressing the story of a few characters. Obviously this can work well if done right, but more often than not it tires the universe by refusing to develop it.

Frank shook up his universe twice: the first with Children of Dune, in which the Golden Path was established, and then again with Heretics of Dune, when the Honored Matres and Advanced Face Dancers appear. To me, this means that the narrative wasn't as much an influence on the chronicles as was the thematic evolution.

The first part dealt with the Hero's Journey and its inevitable subversion in a real-world setting, the next with the Golden Path and how setting stasis can result in stagnation and extinction and, finally, the last part with (in my opinion) a revisit to the Butlerian Jihad and what it means to be human. Substitute machines dominating the human experience with Advanced Face Dancers co-opting it.

So, I can easily see why people do not enjoy the latter books in the series as they truthfully have little to do with the narrative of the first two. However, this does not make them less meaningful or relevant as they have thematic messages that continue the Dune universe in different manners. I applaud Frank for doing this. He had a far better grasp of how to develop a realistic universe than most writers even now.

I'm sure these thoughts have been covered to some extent on here before, so if they have I would appreciate some direction towards such topics. If not, would anyone be willing to expand on my ideas? I feel like they can be developed with the input of some of the more familiar Dune historians/fans. :)

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Re: Thematic/Narrative Structure of the Dune Chronicles

Postby Omphalos » 28 Mar 2014 14:21

I guess I can see the logic in grouping Children and GEOD together, although that was obviously not my first impression But taking Children away from the first two? Not sure I am down with that.

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Re: Thematic/Narrative Structure of the Dune Chronicles

Postby Redstar » 28 Mar 2014 15:22

Children definitely fits more into the narrative of the previous two books, but I feel that it has more in common with God-Emperor in terms of theme.

Obviously the series can't so simply be divided in just one way. My ideas are just an attempt to illustrate that the series isn't some self-contained "hexalogy" that focuses on only one specific narrative, as many people feel it should.

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Re: Thematic/Narrative Structure of the Dune Chronicles

Postby Serkanner » 28 Mar 2014 17:29

Redstar wrote:the series isn't some self-contained "hexalogy" that focuses on only one specific narrative, as many people feel it should.


As a first comment. I agree with this, but perhaps for different reasons. When you dig into Franks life and discover why he (had to) write more Dune books it becomes a bit more delicate to position the books in any shape of continuity. Dune wasn't his one major series. Frank wrote a lot more than that. But every time he needed money he had to come back to the Dune universe which "guaranteed" a more stable number of sales. This Dune audience ( I think ) was not a typical sci-fi kind of audience. Dune had attracted a more sophisticated audience than the common pulp. And Frank gave that audience what it wanted: a series to contemplate for decades. To keep a hold of that widespread audience he needed to bring a challenge.
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Re: Thematic/Narrative Structure of the Dune Chronicles

Postby Freakzilla » 31 Mar 2014 11:52

CoD could easily be grouped with either Dune and DM or GEoD. I see it as a changing of the guard. It is Paul's final act and Leto's first but I think Paul's role as The Preacher, while important, is minor compared to Leto setting the begining of the Golden Path.
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