Author: Frank Herbert
Release Year: 1965
Reviewed By: The Bookwyrm
Type of Book: Science Fiction
Synopsis: Dune takes place far in the future, where humanity has come to rely on their minds as opposed to technology. The various mental abilities developed over time are fueled by Melange (aka Spice) and thus it is the most valuable commodity in the universe. The royal houses, Spacing Guild, and reigning emperor all want dominion over the product. Paul Atreides, heir to his father’s house, finds himself in the midst of a tangled political web. By the emperor’s orders his family is sent to govern Arrakis, the only place Spice can be successfully farmed, in what is obviously a trap. In order to survive Paul will have to outwit the Bene Gesserit, who believe that after millennia of manipulating genetics they have found the one they’ve waited for. He’ll also need to befriend the native Fremen if he wants to avoid the numerous attempts to have his house destroyed. Among the Fremen he’ll learn of the old prophecies concerning a foretold Messiah, and come to realize his true potential.
Setting: Arrakis, or Dune, is a desert planet with a harsh climate. Water is so scarce and precious that the Fremen have developed numerous ways to conserve their limited supplies. Sandworms roam beneath the dunes and are liable to eat anything they sense above the surface. However, they’re at the heart of the desert’s fragile ecosystem and so Fremen and colonists alike must live with the threat of the creatures if they leave their established towns. Herbert completely delved into the inner workings of the planet he created, and the parched, dusty atmosphere is vivid in your mind. What’s more, while the novel is set primarily on one planet, there are nods to the greater system surrounding them, which adds depth to the universe.
Plot: The politics of Dune are intricate and therefore fuel most of the story. Normally it would be near impossible to connect every detail in a story so complicated, but Herbert manages it somehow. With the feudal system back in place, and computers nonexistent, the book becomes entirely focused on the human aspect. Everyone’s natures, their ambition and desires, as well as their motivations become a puzzle to figure out. In Dune, Herbert successfully blends politics, ecology, religion, and philosophy and turns it into a marvelous plot for a Sci-fi novel. The actions by the characters weren’t predictable in the slightest, and I can easily see why Dune is hailed as one of the greatest Science Fiction books ever written.
Characters: Paul is intelligent and fair, if a bit hard to connect to. Herbert would have had a difficult time writing a believable messiah, but he pulled it off in the end. You could see why people rallied behind Paul when he spoke. The different ‘types’ of people able to utilze their mental abilites are fascinating. Mentats are capable of high reasoning and are essentially human computers, while the Bene Gesserit are equal parts mysterious and menacing, especially once you realize how deeply they have their claws embedded in the universe. A lot of the characters come off more as archetypes than people, but the Fremen were complex and well written characters.
General Themes and Special Attractions: Dune is definitely a Sci-fi epic and it’s influenced many other ventures into the genre. For lovers of the genre, this is guaranteed to be an enjoyable read. The extensive focus on the ecology of the planet was great and extremely well thought-out.
What the Reviewer Liked: The universe that Dune takes place in is astounding in its detail. It takes a great deal of work to create a setting this complete. The Fremen were a fascinating people and I found myself rooting for them above all others, even Paul himself.
What the Reviewer Didn’t Like: If I had to pick one thing which brought Dune down it would have to be that the dialogue feels forced and stiff on occasion. Most of the time it works, but sometimes it slips and its hard to believe that people would speak so artificially. When Herbert writes all of his characters as though they’re smarter than you it’s easy to see how capable of crossing the line into pretentiousness they are.
- “Whether a thought is spoken or not it is a real thing and has powers of reality.”
- “What do you despise? By this are you truly known.”
- “The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind orders itself and meets resistance.”
“Survival is the ability to swim in strange water.”
- “Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”
Similar Books: Brave New World, Stranger in a Strange Land, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Foundation, Hyperion, and novels in the Ender universe having to so more with politics such as Xenocide or Shadow of the Hegemon.