Saturday, September 15, 2012

30 Days of Genre - What Genre Novel Have You Read More Than Five Times?

This is kind of a difficult question for me, not because I haven't read a particular genre novel more than five times, but rather because I have read several, and it is mildly difficult do pick which one to highlight. I could pick The Lord of the Rings, but I have used so much of J.R.R. Tolkien's material already in the meme that choosing that book seems like I would run the risk of being a little repetitive. I could pick one of the many Asimov or Heinlein titles that I have read multiple times - Foundation, Starship Troopers, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, The Caves of Steel, and so on, but I write a lot about those guys anyway. I could go way into left field and pick one of my very idiosyncratic favorites like Ten Thousand Heroes by James Barbary, but that book is so obscure that citing it won't mean much to very many people, and it isn't really a genre novel anyway. After all of this, my pick is:

Dune by Frank Herbert

I've come back to Frank Herbert's saga of religious fanaticism and space opera several times, and each time I find something new in the story. The first time I was too young to get the allegory that Spice Melange represents, filling the role in the book's galactic empire that oil has in ours. That time I saw the attempt to make the unrealistic tropes of classic space opera - soldiers in the far future using swords, a world in which computers are oddly absent, and so on - plausible.

The next time through I saw the Spice/oil allegory. And then the dangers posed by the fanatical Fremen Fedaykin bodyguards for the messianic Paul Muad'dib Atredies, who had seemed so noble and admirable in earlier readings, became apparent with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, and a novel in which prescience plays a major role came to seem oddly prescient. And on further readings the issue of prescience came to the fore, and what that would imply for humanity to have, at its head, a leader who could predict the future and take steps to eliminate those futures displeasing to him. I expect that the next time I read Dune, I will find something else about it that I hadn't seen before. The books that you want to reread are books like that, books that you can glean something new from each time you read them. Dune is that kind of novel.


  1. @Julia Rachel Barrett: I don't reread it that often, but it is one of those books that I think I should.