What readers like: Dune


Scott Locklin has a post up on The Fremen are Chechens: “Sabres of Paradise” as inspiration for Dune, in which he makes a compelling case that Frank Herbert’s Dune is based on Lesely Blanch’s Sabres of Paradise [Amazon links].

This is an interesting addition to my post last year on What Authors Like Versus What Readers Like. I used Dune as an example of a book where readers are far more interested in the first volume of a series than the sequels. I speculated that books like Ender’s Game and Dune are more popular than their sequels because authors feel emboldened to pursue their litfic speculative ambitions because of the success of the first book, but they don’t really understand what readers were reacting to.


What Sabres of Paradise adds to this is that we can specifically identify how much of Dune’s awesomeness comes from copying the stranger than fiction Murid War and larger than life men like Mikhail Lermontov. Lots of scifi authors do this, but Herbert decided to go all in on eugenics in the later Dune books, rather than mining Russian history some more.


That is pretty interesting to speculate about, but it is simply never going to be as popular with readers as a story that has more adventure elements. The best, most iconic works of this type are those that hybridize literary accomplishment with the old old form of the romance, a series of marvelous adventures.

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