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Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert [Paperback]

Brian Herbert

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Book Description

July 2004
Everyone knows Frank Herbert's Dune.This amazing and complex epic, combining politics, religion, human evolution, and ecology, has captured the imagination of generations of readers. One of the most popular science fiction novels ever written, it has become a worldwide phenomenon, winning awards, selling millions of copies around the world. In the prophetic year of 1984, "Dune" was made into a motion picture directed by David Lynch, and it has recently been produced as a three-part miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel. Though he is best remembered for "Dune," Frank Herbert was the author of more than twenty books at the time of his tragic death in 1986, including such classic novels as "The Green Brain, The Santaroga Barrier, The White Plague" and "Dosadi Experiment,"Brian Herbert, Frank Herbert's eldest son, tells the provocative story of his father's extraordinary life in this honest and loving chronicle. He has also brought to light all the events in Herbert's life that would find their way into speculative fiction's greatest epic.From his early years in Tacoma, Washington, and his education at the University of Washington, Seattle, and in the Navy, through the years of trying his hand as a TV cameraman, radio commentator, reporter, and editor of several West Coast newspaper, to the difficult years of poverty while struggling to become a published writer, Herbert worked long and hard before finding success after the publication of "Dune" in 1965. Brian Herbert writes about these years with a truthful intensity that brings every facet of his father's brilliant, and sometimes troubled, genius to full light.Insightful and provocative, containing family photos never published anywhere, thisabsorbing biography offers Brian Herbert' unique personal perspective on one of the most enigmatic and creative talents of our time.

Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; New title edition (July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765306476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765306470
  • Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 15.5 x 22.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 650,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, but with some key aspects on Herbert 17 April 2003
By Pablo Iglesias Alvarez - Published on Amazon.com
I could call this book a "Family Biography" rather than only a bio on Frank Herbert. This is no surprise coming from the pen of his son, Brian Herbert and souldn't had implied something negative, nonetheless I feel that the result was not overall satisfactory, and an important opportunity missed by Brian Herbert.
On the good side, we get to know the intimate family life of Frank Herbert and specially his relationship with his wife Beverly and his sons.In this way we discover the man but we are far from discovering much of the writer. We hardly get any insights into many of his writings (the exception is of course Dune). I was eager to know about the origins of the Pandora Cycle, the Dune Sequels or many of the great short stories, but non of that is propoerly developed and sometimes it is only barely mentioned. We even get more details about Brian Herbert's own writings!, which seems to me a lack of sensibility on the author's part.
While not the best I would expect, "Dreamer of Dune" is certainly valuable for the most familiar aspects of Herbert which would have been unavailable otherwise. Nevertheless, we won't get the full picture of one of science fiction's grandest creators and I recommend to complement this title with other valuable sources to fully understand Herbert's achievement. Some recommendations are Frank Herbert by Timothy O'Reilly (found on the web at Tim O'Reilly's Web Page), The Maker of Dune, a collection of articles by Herbert himself on various topics and the academic works by William Touponce and Daniel Levack.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved it, but it's not for everyone 14 Mar 2004
By Bart Leahy - Published on Amazon.com
A reader usually does not pick up the biography of an author unless seriously interested in that writer's work. I've bought and read most of Herbert's works, and have found them uniformly fascinating and mind-expanding. What interests me most about SF writers I admire is the intellectual content--the level of depth they put into their writing--and I'm always curious about where they get their information. Unfortunately, Brian Herbert did not deliver those particular goods.
That said, I gave this book four stars because it moved me. This was a very interesting, smart man, and his works have greatly impacted my views and my writing. He presents his father from a truly unique perspective. Perhaps Hemingway's kids wrote about life with "the great man," but otherwise I haven't seen many sons-writing-about-their-fathers books. Maybe I was just affected by the father-son dynamic of the book. (Herbert had another brother, Bruce, who was apparently estranged from his father because he was homosexual). Perhaps, if viewed from that perspective, Brian Herbert's book deserves to be called a triumph. You can read it and respond to it even if you aren't a science fiction fan.
This, then, is the story of the Herbert family, a group of itinerant travelers who centered its collective life around the father in order to ensure the success of his career-as seen through the eyes of the "number one son." There is also a remarkable love story here, that between Frank Herbert and Beverly Stuart, his wife. Fans can get some idea of this love between husband and wife by reading the postscript of Chapterhouse: Dune. The death of Beverly tugs at the heart, as does the death of the great man himself, when it comes. You can empathize with Brian Herbert and his struggles getting to know and love his brilliant, driven, and difficult-to-know father.
There are flaws with the book, though. There are many places where passages repeat. I also found it odd how Herbert would alternate between calling Frank "Dad" or "Frank Herbert." Sort of like the discomfort one might feel hearing a friend address their parents by first name instead of "Mom" or "Dad." One gets the feeling that anything the author experienced personally was attributed to "Dad" while anything the author looked up was attributed to "Frank Herbert." And, of course, the author didn't deliver the goods when it came to some of the intellectual aspects of his father's work. Everyone asks an author, "Where do you get your ideas?" Brian Herbert answers a few of these questions with regard to Dune and other stories, but not enough. I suppose one would have to read a more "lit-crit" analysis of Frank Herbert's work to know where he acquired his unique, super-cerebral style or lofty political insights. Having read a couple of Brian Herbert's books, I'm afraid he doesn't know, either. The prequels he's written have not matched the father's work, much to my dismay.
So, bottom-line, if you want a good father-son story that just happens to involve a famous author you might like, by all means, read this book. If you're looking for an intellectual analysis of this SF colossus, you will have to look elsewhere.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ghastly writing, some interesting content 28 Aug 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
After about 60 pages into this book, I was wondering - where were the editors at Tor when this was being made ready for publication? It is incredibly repetitious, there must be at least 4 different places where Brian Herbert writes that the seed idea for the Bene Gesserit was from Frank Herberts group of strong minded Roman Catholic aunts. Or, that a haiku is a 17 syllable Japanese poem. I could go on, but I think I've made the point.
As others have mentioned, it is more of a family biography than a biography of Frank Herbert himself. There is far more about Brian Herbert in this work than I expected (or wanted).
I think a good editor could have reduced this mess from a bloated 576 pages to a nice tight 300 pages.
It was only my curiosity about Frank Herbert and the love I had for the first few Dune novels during my youth that enabled me to persist, via skimming.
I certainly hope this will not be the "definitive biography" of Frank Herbert.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Drawn out and painful 14 Mar 2008
By J. Zellers - Published on Amazon.com
The book starts out with a captivating punch. Despite Brian Herbert's poor writing skills he starts off telling the most interesting stories about his father, and I found myself able to ignore the ridiculous amount of repetition, as others here have pointed out (I mean seriously, he obviously wasn't looking back on what he had written while he was writing, because he reintroduces the same facts and stories multiple times as if mentioning them for the first time). Then something horrible happened. Brian Herbert was born.

At this point the story takes an incredibly self-indulgent turn. Brian cries endlessly about how his father mistreated him, but as it turns out, he didn't even start reading his father's books until he was in his twenties! He makes vague, weak excuses for this, but the impression I got was one of a lazy child with an Oedipus Complex who was too busy getting drunk as a teenager to bother with such things as supporting his father.

The bulk of this book comes off as more of a memoir than a biography. You hear things from Brian's point of view, clouded by his judgment and opinions. I hardly felt I learned anything about Frank Herbert by reading it, except for the various dates his books were published, and that he was apparently an atrociously horrible father *sarcasm*.

The details are all in petty, meaningless dates and times. A disturbing portion of the book reads like this. "At 6:30 PM on January 15, 1976, Jan and I ate dinner with my father and mother at (insert name of hotel here). Frank Herbert (since he constantly switches between calling him "Dad", "father" and "Frank Herbert", apparently arbitrarily) ordered a bottle of expensive aged wine. He told jokes like I've described him doing a million times at a million insignificant hotel dinners throughout this book, and it was an altogether pleasant night." Given the way he skimps on describing Frank's early life and his years struggling to get published while raising two kids, you would think he could skimp on all of these painful hotel dinners and just give us the essentials of what was going on, but no, every second after Brian becomes friends with his dad in his adult life is described in ridiculous, pedantic detail. Its about as interesting as reading an itinerary.

To his credit, he manages to paint an emotional portrait of his family... right before he screws that up by cheaply plugging his own witless writing. Rather than ending the book with a poignant comment on his father, as he leads you to believe he will, it ends with talk of the new "Dune" (and I'm not putting that in quotes because its a title) books he and Anderson have been crapping out on a yearly basis. Shameless self-promotion at its most loathsome.

Don't waste your time with this book unless a rattlesnake bit you in the eye and you need to bleed the venom out. It does have its moments and I will say it wasn't a complete waste of time, but I heaved a sigh of relief when I hit page 536. I am a big fan of everything Frank Herbert has ever written and his son doesn't have half the talent he did.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Leto's confessions? 13 Sep 2003
By Craig Chalquist, PhD, author of TERRAPSYCHOLOGY and DEEP CALIFORNIA - Published on Amazon.com
Not quite, although I did tire of hearing about what a rotten father Frank Herbert had been to Brian. I don't idealize Herbert and can see the need to be true to how his children experienced him, but as my other reviews indicate, I am not a fan of people bringing relentlessly into print recurrent complaints that ought to be voiced within the family, between friends, or in therapy. Nevertheless, to see the two reconciled was warming to read; both fathers and sons will appreciate many of the obstacles involved.
I was going to comment at length on the poor editing job (the main reason I only gave this book a 3) but reviewers below have already done so. An obvious catch would have been asking the author to decide between Dad, Father, Frank, and Frank Herbert. The frequent shifts made my eyes sore. (I should own up here to a negative impression going in to this biography: when I wrote the author to ask a question about Chapterhouse, he responded only with a pitch for his own serializations. This lost him a potential customer.)
Many interesting connections are drawn between Herbert's personal experiences and various themes in his books, particularly the Dune books. For those alone it's a worthy read, and may enhance your appreciation of the original series. There are also many interesting anecdotes about Herbert's life and the sense of jovial humanity that shines through in his writing.
The book is clear and very readable and organized in chronological fashion to make Herbert's life story unfold in a meaningful and easily understood order. The death of brave Beverly and the family's reactions were particularly moving, and upon hearing at one point that the author could not continue writing, I too put down the book for a moment, feeling the pain in the words.
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