Listening to classic books in the car is my new campaign. Since our small library has quite a few classics in the audio book section, I should be set up for a little while. Their selection of WWII books and history lectures were quickly exhausted. And so I branched out into the world of fiction.
The first book that I listened to was Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I have been meaning to read this book forever, and I have heard so many good things about it. Not only was it a fascinating book, but it was also incredibly insightful. For being published in 1953, Bradbury has wide screen TVs, sophisticated bombers, and other elements in his world that reveal amazing insight into where the world was going.
The story is gripping, but more than that, Bradbury has something to say about knowledge, books, power, and subversion. What are the implications of leaving our past behind us? What have we lost when we ignore books and the accumulated wisdom from history? While it has a bit of sci-fi feel at times, you certainly do not feel trapped inside a strange sci-fi world. Another highlight of the book was the interview with the author that followed the story. Bradbury is very humble about his foresight and tells his own story as an author with wry humor. “Fahrenheit 451” became the title after he called the San Francisco fire department and asked them, “At what temperature does paper burn?” He comments in the interview, “I’m glad that guy was right.”
Having done well with a book close to the sci-fi genre, I decided to give Dune a chance. It’s THE sci-fi book apparently that all are measured against. And for good reason. Frank Herbert creates a very believable world with a fragile alliance of planets, a world of sand with a rare spice, and scheming families who all fight for power.
While I typically dislike fantasy worlds, this world of Arrakis or Dune is somewhat chastened. Herbert establishes parameters for his world and sticks to them very strictly. The narrative flows very well, only losing the reader at strange moments of zen-like introspection. There is tremendous character development, and the development of entire races and people groups is even more impressive.
I cannot recommend this book for everyone, but I think it is a very good read. Herbert is dealing with issues that plague our world today just as much as his fictional creation, and his characters exhibit depth and complexity. If you want to try sci-fi, this is a good way to test the waters.
Dune: The Battle of Corrin
After Frank Herbert passed away with several sequels of Dune under his belt, his son Brian took over the project. Based on manuscripts left by Frank, Brian set out to make the prequels to Dune. The Battle of Corrin is right in the middle of this collection.
While the story flows well and the interconnected rings of the story have a wonderful way of surfacing, submerging, and then resurfacing, The Battle of Corrin is testing my tolerance of sci-fi at the moment. How many billion people and thinking machines can you wipe out before you weary of the book? Maybe that is the genius of it. The characters weary of killing and bloodshed and so does the reader.
In any case, The Battle of Corrin plays off the over-used sci-fi conflict between humans and thinking machine oppressors. While the battles and relationships work well in the narrative, the book strikes me as being a bit too long. There doesn’t seem to be enough plot to carry all of the action. While Dune ended while it still had some steam, The Battle of Corrin is relying on its own momentum now, unable to produce any more energy for the reader. I have arrived at the climactic battle and don’t really care who wins. It’s not a bad book, but I’ve read better.