Dune: villain sub-plots and tension time-bombs


So this is a book I finished over a month ago. I’ve been so busy with life, the universe and everything, though, (plus finished another half-dozen books in that time) that I hadn’t written a review of it yet.

It’s amazing how much multi-tasking reading time I get with audiobooks. I honestly didn’t think I would get any time to read books when the year began.

So this book had been on my to-read list since before I got it for Christmas 2014, in large part because it’s one of Brandon Sanderson’s favourites. More than that though, it’s the book he said opened up his mind to the potential of other fantasy worlds.

Dune can neither be labelled as clearly SciFi or distinctly Fantasy. It is somewhere in between. Fantasy Science Fiction, perhaps?

In that sense, it opened up his mind in the same way that his novels have opened mine. It makes me wonder whether I will ever write something that opens up someone else’s mind in a similar way.

Anyway, I suppose I should talk more about Dune. It was an interesting read. Perhaps a tad slow to get going. But that might be because it was written forty or fifty years ago. Perhaps back then it was incredibly fast-paced.

The third-person omniscient voice was a very peculiar effect; I don’t think I’ve read any other book in that viewpoint; it actually changed the way I interacted with the novel. And it made me think about something interesting in regards to villains that I’ve since picked up in Brandon’s work.

I guess it can be summed up as something once said by Hitchcock, to the effect of: suspense is created by showing the audience a room full of people, and then showing a live bomb ticking down under the table.

The idea is showing the audience something our hero/protagonist doesn’t know about, something that is happening beneath their awareness, to create suspense.

Now obviously, there might be times when you want your audience to experience/discover the plot-twists at the same time as the protagonist, but I think if you can do both, there’s a chance for greater things.

For instance, how much more will a reader fail to foresee your awesome twist ending if you give them the other ninety-percent of the lesser plot-twists ahead of the protagonist, through a secondary POV villain character or something?

In one sense, I’m playing with something similar myself in The Arthur Lien Abductions, because each new part each month swaps back-and-forth between Tyler and Jill as the POV character.

I did it mainly because I thought their relationship subplot would be more effective, realistic and open to understandable conflict if the reader could get into both of their heads. Writing it though, I realised I could also have one character lie or hide things from the other. Automatic tension-builder.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but that’s exactly what having a villain protagonist does. It’s a tension time-bomb for the reader. It’s not doable in a single-viewpoint first-person or third-limited narrative. But anything with multiple viewpoints…. Go for your life.

Now, back to Dune.

Honestly, it wasn’t as good for me as anything of Brandon’s, but it was a lesson in something done well, from which I could see what I liked and wanted to emulate, or didn’t and therefore wanted to avoid in my own work.

It is a classic. I can see that. And I do recommend it as a lesson in thorough world-building, third-person omniscient viewpoints and effective Sci-Fi/Fantasy mixing.

I’m going to give it three-and-a-half crysknives out of five. Until next time…

QOTB: What’s the best genre-mixing book you’ve read?

And don’t forget, due to the release of The Arthur Lien Abductions, Part Two: The Mystery, Part One: The Secret is down to only 99c (US). Get it today!


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