Classics

Dune (Dune Chronicles #1)

Dune

Summary:

Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the 'spice' melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis.

Published in 1965, it won the Hugo Award in 1966 and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune is frequently cited as the world's best-selling science fiction novel. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

“Dune” is a book that starts out very slow and slowly builds into a culmination of events.  I really struggled to get through the first few chapters before getting a little more intrigued.  It seems like there is a lot in this book that is setting up for future sequels (or superfluous information) and at times I found that distracting.  That being said, once I was about halfway through I didn’t want to put the book down and was extremely interested to find out what would be happening next.  Paul is both lovable and a frustration at varying points making an imperfect protagonist that keeps things interesting.

One complaint is the aspect of being a messiah to the people.  Parts of that felt forced or borrowing a lot from existing cultures, but perhaps I’m reading too much into it.  It’s tough to put modern perspectives on a book that was originally published in 1965.  As such, I am extremely glad I’ve read the book as it’s considered by many to be “the best” of science fiction, but I won’t be in a rush to read the subsequent books in the series.  Reading the epilogue by his son at the end of the book made me appreciate the book a little more so I’d highly recommend including that in your read.

Warning: Contains repeated violence.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Folks who want to know what all the fuss is about and read a more “classic” science fiction novel.

Want to read the whole series?

  • Dune Messiah (Dune Chronicles #2)
  • Children of Dune (Dune Chronicles #3)
  • God Emperor of Dune (Dune Chronicles #4)
  • Heretics of Dune (Dune Chronicles #5)
  • Chapterhouse: Dune (Dune Chronicles #6)
  • Hunters of Dune (Dune Chronicles #7)
  • Sandworms of Dune (Dune Chronicles #8)

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

Summary:

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now... (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a book that creeped me out just enough I had to put it down and pick it up again later.  I found the book interesting, but not compelling.   There are a lot of very good topics addressed such as feminism, ownership, and the risk of over-reactions to social topics.  Yet despite it being intriguing from those perspectives, if I had thought not been reading the book as part of the challenge I might not have finished it.

I think what makes this book better than some other dystopian with similar themes is the psychological insight.  The internal commentary from Offred is what gets the book under your skin because we get the understanding of just how far she’s willing to go for different things.  The flashbacks to her family “before” everything happened are also quite creepy as they look quite a bit like our current society.  Mixed feelings on this one, but I’d still highly recommend giving it a read.

Warning: Contains violence and sexual content.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? I think it’d be good for everyone to give it a read as it’s becoming more of a classic and a new TV show is coming out based on it!

Emma

Emma

Summary:

Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a book I really enjoyed, but when I think about watching the movie or rereading the book I sometimes cringe.  There are a lot of cringe-worthy moments in the book, particularly when you know they’re coming.  Emma is a snob, no way around that, but she is endearing and lovable all the same.  She is ultimately challenged in all of her assumptions and has to come around to see the flaws in her perspectives.

I think this is one of those books that everyone will relate to in some manner or another, which is why I still adore it.  Emma makes the same mistakes I think everyone does when they’re kids and not quite sure how to interact with others.  Emma just never learned the lesson!

I know that for many this is their favorite Jane Austen novel, but since I can’t handle awkward humor very well, it’s still behind “Pride & Prejudice” for me!

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone looking to give Jane Austen a shot – I think this is the most “modern friendly”.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker’s #1)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Summary:

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This book was light-hearted, funny and is definitely a “must read” for science fiction fans.  DO NOT judge the book by the movie.

I will be the first to admit, there are times where the book felt a little over the top in making the point.  It has the subtlety of hitting yourself over the head with a frying pan, but I also think that’s part of the reason that it appeals to such a large audience.  The humor reminds me of the somewhat wayward uncle that is equally exasperating and hilarious at the same time.

I read the whole series at once in an anthology and I’d highly recommend that approach.  It keeps the story continuous and flowing although I know some folks will not want to commit to that all at once.  Highly recommended!  I think I’m due for a reread.

Warning: May cause confusion.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Science fiction fans must give this one a read.

Want to read the whole series?

  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhikers #2)
  • Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchikerss #3)
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (Hitchhiker’s #4)
  • Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker’s #5)
  • And Another Thing… (Hitchhiker’s #5)