Let me start with what I loved about this book (a book that, before anything else is said, I enjoyed and found worthwhile and would recommend reading with some caveats). This book is fenced in on either sides by powerful writing (spoilers!):
These bookends (a metaphor that always feels clumsy when you use it to describe a book) alone warrant a close examination and digestion of this book. Now I will quibble with the rest.
I often rave about the power of a novella as a form, and yet I found myself spending much of the book feeling bored: bored with the protagonist, bored with his cycle of hope and anger and defeat. This is a short book whose middle stretches felt arduous: you could charitably argue that this was by design, so as to evoke the endless sprawl and solitude of the dunes, but I found it tricky to square.
I am excited to read more of Abe's work (I just borrowed a copy of The Box Man). I am hoping his protagonists show more variation than this one, who existed mostly as a vehicle for the dunes.