By Frank Herbert, Performed by Simon Vance
18 CDs – 22 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Politics / Space travel / Culture / Ecology /
Dune. Arrakis. Desert Planet.
I first read Dune when I was in college (late 1980’s), after a few false starts. I desperately wanted to read it, so I made it the only thing I took with me on a 30 hour bus ride from Tucson, Arizona to Idaho Falls, Idaho. It was a long trip. I smelled like cigarettes. But I got that book read, and loved it.
Years later, I reviewed an unabridged recording of Dune for SFFaudio that was read by George Guidall. Loved that one, too. Revisiting the book was a treat and Guidall is the Yoda of audiobook narration, so win-win.
Now, years after that, I’ve heard yet another unabridged version of Dune, this time a multi-voice presentation from Macmillan Audio. And again, I loved it. Frank Herbert’s novel remains one of the finest examples of world-building the genre has to offer. The political intrigue is delicious, the implied history deep and satisfying, and the characters smart.
Simon Vance is the main narrator. Each character’s dialogue is performed by actors, and skilled actors at that. I can’t find a list of the entire cast, but it includes Scott Brick, Katherine Kellgren, Orlagh Cassidy, and Euan Morton. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The actors were allowed to perform, and most of the time the attributives were dropped. Vance’s narration bridges the conversations, and the book is immersive and engaging.
I’m not certain why, but there are long passages that Simon Vance narrates himself. Vance is right up there with Guidall, so it’s an excellent reading. I’m just not certain why the audiobook wasn’t done with a full cast all they way through. I point this out as a curiosity rather than a flaw.
A few short years ago, if a person had asked me if I prefer a single narrator to a full cast recording, there wouldn’t have been any hesitation. Single narrator, definitely. But now, I’d have a difficult time choosing between a full cast narration and a single narrator, assuming the single narrator is good, the actors in the full cast narration are good, and – this is very important – the attributives in the full cast narration are dropped so I don’t have to hear the maddening “he said angrily” after an actor has made it quite clear that a character is angry. The problem is that most full cast narrations lean too far toward audio drama, adding too much sound and music. I love audio drama, but audio drama and audiobooks are very different experiences. Most productions that aim somewhere between the two fail in my opinion. Because of this leaning, there aren’t many full cast narrations I’ve enjoyed, but this production from Macmillan Audio and anything from Full Cast Audio are top-notch.
Despite my enjoyment of Dune, I have never read past it. I can’t explain why. I’ve owned a copies of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune for years, but have never read them. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson published a book called The Road to Dune (SFFaudio Review), which presented the history of the creation of the Dune books. In there it said that Frank Herbert intended Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune to be one story. It’s long past time I try more of these novels. Lucky for me, all six of Frank Herbert’s original books have been completed and released by Macmillan Audio, all as full cast productions.
On to Dune Messiah!
Posted by Scott D. Danielson
2 thoughts to “Review of Dune by Frank Herbert (Macmillan Audio)”
“Dune” is on my pile of shame. Haven’t read it or listened to it in any version.
I’m listening to this now, and I have to say that the sudden switch to single narrator sporadically is a bit disorienting after getting used to hearing multiple voices; still, a great listen overall.