Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)

ISBN: 0441013597
ISBN 13: 9780441013593
By: Frank Herbert

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About this book

Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad'Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family--and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream. A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what it undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

Reader's Thoughts

Jason Pettus

Like many, my relationship with this science-fiction classic has changed as my life has progressed: too dense for me when first attempted as a young teen, by the time I was an undergraduate it was one of my all-time favorite novels; but then while reading it again near the age of 40, found a lot more problems with it than I had before, and more parts that made me roll my eyes and quietly laugh. Maybe this is why so many people over history have enjoyed the first novel but never read any of the rest of the saga? It's definitely a great book, for those who have never read it before: a combination of elaborate cultural backstory (ala JRR Tolkien), the far-flung future of humanity (ala Asimov's Foundation series), and a grand Eastern-influenced vision that evokes "Lawrence of Arabia," the original novel combines a Shakespearean tale of family intrigue with the trippy '60s elements of alternate realities and messiah-figure destiny. But yeah, let's face it; the older you are, the faster you'll be skipping over the pages upon pages of ponderous purple prose on display here, muttering to yourself the whole time, "Okay, okay, I get it, Paul senses something wrong. Now what happens next?"


I had never read Dune. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I hadn’t read it; although, I do have a nebulous memory of picking it up and not being able to get in to it. I know for a fact that I’d read the closing line previously, which is something I never do prior to reading a book; so that is really odd, perhaps it was quoted in either the movie or the miniseries.I do know people, a surprising number of people, who give Dune an almost Biblical reverence. It isn’t a selective grouping either. A totally random swath of people I’ve known have considered Dune to have had a very formative role in their growth; one, in particular, credits it with her move away from conservative religion. It is a really big deal to some people.While I don’t feel like reading Dune changed my life, I did really enjoy it. I suspect I partially enjoyed it just due to contrast. I felt so unstimulated by the Foundation Trilogy that I was thrilled to read something where a “hero” was doing something. It allowed for the “I can change the world” fantasy transposition of reader and main character that I was missing in the Foundation books. I think that having a cast of characters who are active in the whole of the book was an important factor in drawing me into the story.I also enjoyed it for the richness of the world. That’s where most of the “science” in this fiction was found, and I find myself more drawn to science as I mature. [In fact, I have been disappointed thus far; I want more science, less fiction.] I have to constantly remind myself while reading through the books on this list that these were, presumably, the first books to use these concepts. Frank Herbert made a universe, complete, from Space Guild to sand plankton. Even after years of reading other stories by authors who have done the same, I can still appreciate the depth of thought and idea behind Arrakis and its surrounding universe. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book which had as great a handle on the ecology of the world in which is was set; if I were pressed, I can only think of Grass by Sherri S. Tepper as coming close.Equally impressive was his treatment of religion. I especially liked the appendices, which moved even deeper into the evolution of religion over time. Herbert’s answer to how religion [and culture] evolved over the millennia[s] since “Old Earth” is similar in concept to the answer Joss Whedon gave with Firefly. Herbert saw the future as blend of Middle Eastern and Western ways; Whedon’s future is China/America. Being that his focus was religious as opposed to say, economic, this is understandable. It may even have been more base than that. Possibly he chose that direction because Arrakis is most similar to our desert regions where Islam originated, but I think it has more to do with cultural impact than mere climatic coincidence.I think one of the strongest elements is the writing itself. It’s very well written. Although I had been exposed to 2 movie versions of Dune prior to reading it, almost none of the previous imagery colored my mental image of what the characters and settings were supposed to look like. Weaker writing would have easily allowed my perceptions to be molded by the theatrical versions. I really hate when that happens. I don’t even know how I used to imagine Harry Potter looking before the movies came out. If Paul Atreides looks like anyone in my head that I’ve seen visually, I’d tell you he looks like this kid I went to school with [coincidentally named Paul Strange] [anybody remember that kid?] albeit much more attractive.


Is it space opera? Is it political commentary? Is it philosophical exploration? Is it fantasy? _Dune_ is all of these things and possibly more. One thing I do know: it's a kick-ass read!I've loved this book since I first plunged into it's mightily constructed, weird and obscure world. Of course it's hailed as a classic, and I am one of those that agrees. The sheer magnitude of Herbert's invention, his monumental world-building tied with an exciting story of betrayal, survival, rebellion and ultimate ascendance are more than enough to guarantee that. His characters too, are worthy of note: Paul Atreides the young heir to not only a ducal throne, but the hopes and desires of the oppressed population of an entire planet and the strange otherworldly powers of prescience and command that are his unique birthright; his mother Jessica torn between devotion to her family and her pledge to a generations-long plan spawned by a secret order bent on controlling the universe from behing the scenes; Chani and Stilgar the wild yet honourable representatives of a dangerous people just waiting to burst their chains and explode onto an unsuspecting universe. Add to these heroes the malign Baron Harkonnen and his debased nephews Feyd Rautha and "the beast" Rabban, the spiteful and covetous Emperor Shaddam IV, masterminds of the fall of Paul's House, and we have the recipe for an exciting contest of wills with no less than the future of humanity at stake.Even without an exciting story to drive it, the book is almost worth reading just to experience the world created by Herbert. 10,000 years in the future mankind has experience the "Butlerian Jihad" wherein all "thinking machines" were destroyed and the hatred of the technological has a religious conviction. In their place there are the Mentats, the "human computers" able to utilize the human mind to nearly it's full potential, drawing accurate inferences and conclusions with minimal data. There is the Sisterhood of the Bene Gesserit, a community of women who have honed their mental powers to the point of a near magical ability to coerce, tied with a training in politics and influence that would make Machiavelli proud. Finally is the Guild: a community of mutated humans, the sole "pilots" able to bend space and foresee their path amidst the void and thus keep interstellar trade and community together. Both the Siterhood and the Guild owe their great powers to the mysterious spice Melange, the only product of the planet Arrakis (known colloquially as Dune) and the society of the Empire in general also depends on it for its "geriatric qualities". Dune is thus the linch-pin for all Imperial power. Without the spice, travel ceases, trade stops, life ends. He who controls the spice controls the universe.Upon this stage is born Paul Atreides, the son of the Duke who is to take control of Arrakis as a fiefdom for the emperor. Paul is not merely the heir to political power though, for he is the last link in a chain of breeding that has been going on for generations, part of a plan created by the Bene Gesserit in the hopes of breeding a superhuman whom they could control. But Paul was born too early, his mother's rebellion against her orders have brought about an unforeseen occurrence. Now in the midst of political betrayal and the loss of all he has known Paul must also fight for survival amongst the most merciless tribe of humanity the universe has formed. Greater powers than any human before him has known will be thrust upon the young man, and the mantle of messiah will be his to accept or reject.Did I mention that I love this book? Well I do. I highly recommend it to any and all. I must admit that there is the occasional infelicity in some of Herbert's prose (and a too-heavy reliance on inner monologues to either state the obvious or convey information to the reader), but overall I can forgive him this for having crafted such an excellent tale. Woven into the story of a tottering space empire are real questions about ecology, responsibility and human life that are well-worth thinking about. Politics is not just a veneer, but the lifeblood of this story and, to me at least, it makes it all the more exciting.I'll admit right here that I am one of the few who actually likes all of the original Dune books, though I must admit that after the original trilogy Herbert seems to lose some of the strands of his narrative thread and my admiration is mostly due to the character of (view spoiler)[ Duncan Idaho (hide spoiler)] and the world-building. (But please avoid the prequels and sequels written by Herbert's son and Kevin Anderson in an attempt to cash in on the franchise, they are worse than anathema.)Also posted at Shelf Inflicted["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>


I've read this before and liked it; several portions stick vividly in my mind but I never read the rest of the series. I still don't expect to read the rest of the series, but my friend just read it and has brought it up a few times in conversation so when they had it on the "Librarians' Picks" shelf at the--guess where?!--library I grabbed it.ADDED FEBRUARY 26:The book has some odd characteristics of the writing that I am overlooking in favor of the story. I don't like the rapid jumps of point of view. I also think the "insights" provided by the jump into a character's thoughts are quite obvious and a poor strategy for alerting the reader of character motivations. It's actually kind of bad writing. But it gets better as the book progresses and more happens within each chapter to one or two characters only. I'm at Part II and the writing has improved tremendously.I do think it's funny how little bits of "I'm writing in 1965" slip into what is a remarkably timeless story. One character consults a wrist watch, and it's called a wrist watch. They watch instructional films. There's an evil homosexual in power, which is supposed to be a radical idea the way it's presented. I am very impressed, however, with the way the powerful Bene Gessirit (sp?) women are presented as just being powerful without any of the "I Am Woman" overtones that appear in 1970s and 1980s post-ERA fiction. Perhaps it matters that a man is writing and lacks the outrage and indignation of the oppressed and does not exaggerate what women could accomplish if given the chance. He just presents them as a sect with influence everywhere that pass knowledge and information through female bloodlines. They are neither earth goddessy nor particularly nurturing nor acting exactly like men. It's very modern and quite prescient. I'm impressed.ADDED FEBRUARY 28:I dunno. The book petered out for me in part three. Maybe I'm just being harsh on books this month, but I couldn't keep track of it anymore. Nothing happened but you had to just keep reading. I think I got sick of all the telepathy and prescience. The paranormal is fine but everything was explained as known in some psychic way. No one ever did anything except look into future timelines and pick the one where you weren't dead or someone else was dead and then stuff happened with that result. It was like eating dinner from a pill in Willy Wonka. There'd be these comments from a character along the lines of "let's go kill all those hundreds of slaves now" and "we just killed six thousand people outside"--huge events mentioned in passing. If you have to mention something like that at all, shouldn't there be a scene detailing it? That's excitement, not wisdom gained by psychically uploading the wisdom of ten people older than you.I remember really liking this book the first time I read it and now I don't remember why. Maybe it's because of all the jihad and bourkas and desert nomads in the book. I think we're Islamed out lately. I really would rather have started with the part where the Fremen were doing real work to transform the planet, but I already got that in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy (interestingly, another book/s with direct tributes to Islam).I guess in the end I don't care that much about courtly intrigue and want the book to be about something else. That's not the author's fault, I suppose.

Eric Allen

DuneBy Frank HerbertA Dune Retrospective by Eric AllenMy Wheel of Time retrospective is almost complete, so it's time for me to start up another one: Dune. For most people, Dune is a nearly incomprehensible cult classic movie that tells the tale of a man taking revenge for his father's murder by conquering a corrupt empire. For the true Sci-Fi nerd, Dune is to Science Fiction as Lord of the Rings was to Fantasy. At the time that Dune was published, Science Fiction was thought of as a low brow, childish genre that no one with an ounce of self respect would either read or write. Before this book, Sci-Fi was basically the joke of the literary world, and if you've read much Sci-Fi that comes before it, you'll see that people rightly thought of it as such. Frank Herbert had a brilliant idea. He had a story that was epic in scope, with great characters, intrigue, betrayal, revenge, and a whole slew of other things that had never really been applied to the Science Fiction genre, and instead of putting them in what would have been a more respectable setting at the time this book was written, he put it in a Sci-Fi setting. In a quote, Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, attributes his inspiration to go forward with his ideas for the original Star Trek series the following year to the success of Dune, and Sci-Fi fandom was born. Dune is an epic story, that happens to take place in a Science Fiction setting. At the time of its publication, it was one of a kind. These were two things that no one had ever thought to put together because the notion seemed ridiculous until Herbert showed them the way. You can see in the fifty years of Science Fiction that followed, many nods, references, and inspirations taken from this book.Herbert spent nearly a decade compiling notes before he even began writing this book. He wanted everything in it to be as scientifically accurate as possible. And it really does show in the book. In fact, when NASA began talking about how to terraform Mars into a planet that could support human life, it was Dune that they turned to first for ideas. Forgive any misspellings, this time through the book was in audio format and holy crap are there a lot of words hard to spell just by listening to them in this book.Dune begins with House Atreides packing up to leave their homeworld of Caladan to take possession of Arrakis, a.k.a. Dune, and the production of the spice that is harvested there, from their ancient rivals the Harkonens. Duke Leto knows that this is a trap, but is confidant that he can turn it to his advantage, and so has accepted the posting, moving his son Paul, and his concubine Jessica, as well as all of their servants and small army of House Soldiers to Dune.As Duke Leto predicted, a trap was laid for vague reasons that the book doesn't really feel the need to explain, though ARE explained, strangely enough, in the extended cut of the 1984 movie adaptation of all things. Through the use of a traitor, the Harkonens slaughter the Duke's forces, and take him and his family hostage. The Duke dies in custody, but Paul and his mother are able to escape into the desert where they join up with a group of Fremen, the native people of Arrakis.The rest of the book deals with Paul amongst the Fremen, preparing to take back Arrakis. He goes through rites of passage to become a full member of the Fremen tribe, and is affected by the spice to become the Kwisatz Haderach, or the first male Bene Gesserit, a being that their order has spent hundreds of generations regulating the breeding of the nobility of the universe to produce.When Paul's son is murdered, he leads a final attack on the Harkonens, taking Arrakis for the Fremen and the Empire for himself through the very real threat of being able to destroy all spice forever on Arrakis.The Good? As I said, Herbert did massive amounts of research into desert climates, what it would take to turn a desert into a paradise, how a body loses moisture and how that moisture can be saved, and a thousand other little details that make Dune all the more realistic because the science upon which the fiction is built is sound. His hard work really paid off to make a very realistic alien world. His combination of Science Fiction and elements of Epic, and Fantasy as well was revolutionary at the time, and brought about the golden age of Science Fiction that we know today. Such great series as Star Trek and Star Wars owe their success, in part, to Dune for paving the way before them. Herbert is a good writer, despite one or two flaws that I'll go into later in the review. His ability to describe things without seeming like he's describing them is something that few writers ever seem to be capable of achieving. His wording is, often times, very poetic, and he knows the value of repeating themes to make them stick in a reader's mind without going too far into repetition. Characters have very distinct and different personalities, and their interactions often come with quite a bit of clever dialog. There is a lot of exposition to give in this book, and the author never really infodumps it on us. He weaves it into the story oftentimes rather than lecturing us on it.The entire book is a rather clever allegory for Middle Eastern Oil that the author denied until shortly before his death. It makes a real profound statement on the world's reliance upon a resource that comes from such a volatile, and barren place that was MUCH ahead of its time.The Bad? There are a few things that are very vague in this book. The reason for moving House Atreides to Arrakis, for one. There are a lot of character motivations that are really left to the reader's imagination. We're not really told why a lot of things are happening, or how. There are a lot of things that happen for the convenience of the plot without explanation. Herbert worked for years on the science of Dune, but maybe he should have spent a little more time on developing the actual story on top of it. There are several uses of plot convenience and Dues Ex Machina that, while not overly offensive to the reader, DO still noticeably exist.The Ugly? The whole concept of the Kwisatz Haderach is not really explained AT ALL. Almost the entirety of the book deals with Paul becoming the Kwisatz Haderach, and Herbert never actually tells us what it is, what it does, or what it is supposed to accomplish. And yes, I HAVE read all of the other books so I have a much fuller understanding from them, but I'm talking about this book and this book alone, taken on its own merits. And taken on its own merits the Kwisatz Haderach is just some vague Chosen One that will do "something" sometime in the future. We are told that this being will be able to see the genetic memory of the male side of things as well as the female side, but it's never really explained what that means, what it entails, and why it's important. Paul develops powers of precognition, but we never really get told why or how, or if this is a part of his heritage as the Kwisatz Haderach. For a concept that is talked about for the majority of the book, and which the main character basically sets out on a quest to become, by the end of the book it's still a gigantic question mark. We know almost nothing about it by the time we reach the ending.This is just my personal preference, and really more of a nitpick than anything else, but the book is written in a voice called Third Person Omniscient, which means that rather than sticking with one single character's viewpoint for the entirety of a scene, with clear breaks to indicate the switching to a different character's point of view, the author switches around from character to character at random when one of them has a thought or observation that is relevant to the plot. I find it to be annoying and oftentimes confusing. This is one of my biggest dislikes in writing styles and was distracting enough to me that it did take away some of my enjoyment from the book.In conclusion, Dune has done quite a bit for Science Fiction as a genre. It's basically THE Science Fiction book. It's the one that paved the way for many of the excellent Sci-Fi that we have today, bringing the genre out of obscurity and showing its critics that it could be used to tell a truly epic story that is worth the time to read. Despite a few instances of vagueness, plot convenience, and just plain not explaining crucial plot details, Dune is a very enjoyable book that still holds up today, almost fifty years since its publication, as well as it did the day it was released. It is a book that every fan of Science Fiction should read at least once in their life. Check out my other reviews.


When I was a kid, I tried about a dozen times to get through this book. My mom loved it, so I figured I'd give it a try, but this book definitely has a high learning curve and I had low patience.Years later, of course, when I knew something more about politics, religion, science and life in general, I raced through the book - I devoured it. It's a fantastic work, well deserving of its place in the science fiction pantheon. The movies are good too, though if I could find a way to cross-breed Lynch's version with the version done on the Sci-Fi channel, I think we might actually be able to come to something that really looks like what Herbert wrote. Unfortunately the novel is so dense and so complex that any attempt to put it on-screen is going to fall short.For the two or three of you who don't know the story, know this: it is the year 10,191. The universe is ruled by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, my fath - DAMN YOU DAVID LYNCH!Sorry, got caught up there for a moment. The Universe is ruled by an Emperor, and governed by planetary noble houses. For those with the resources to do so, travel within the empire is instantaneous, from one corner of the universe to the other. The Spacing Guild, with their space-bending Navigators, hold society together. What gives the Navigators their power is the Spice, and that can only be found on Arrakis. On Dune.House Harkonnen, a bloodline of deception, pain and malice, has been removed from Arrakis, replaced by the good and noble House Atreides. Duke Leto the Just is set over the planet, and would probably rule with kindness and generosity. But kindness and generosity don't make money, and there are plans within plans within plans, all of which are bent on destroying the Atreides. But what the Emperor and his servants cannot know is the role that the Duke's son, Paul, will play in re-shaping the entire order of the universe.There. Now go read.There are more books, sequels to this, but most sources tell me that they're disappointing.


Dune is an unusually savage, epic, ethereal space opera that subverts the common ideals of science fiction by transcending social and technological development, and focuses on the metaphysical aspects of human development. It's a fantastic work of fiction; complex in its setup and traditional in its delivery. It's loaded with societal intrigue, bizarre science-fiction, spacial politics, villainous aristocrats and elaborate interplanetary cultures.Every strange and wonderful dynamic in this novel works, be it the odd pairing of a highly technologically advanced society following an ancient feudal structure, to people, primitive by today's standards, living among beings so self-aware, their consciousness have surpassed mentality and enhanced their physical form. This novel doesn't consist of a basic structure; I mean, anyone could extrapolate elements of a medieval feudal system and throw in some spaceships, laser guns and superhumans. But that's not Dune. Herbert goes into profuse detail, creating ideas based on a dense speculation so precise, it's almost mathematical. He ingratiates every aspect of his world so intrinsically, that nothing feels out of place.Even with such an intelligently structured world gripped firmly in his hands, Frank Herbert's delivers with an almost childlike energy to his story. It's vicious, convoluted and fascinating. Each character, though memorable and important to the story, feel authentic. Yes, they contribute to the story, but they aren't just cogs whose goals are merely to assist the protagonist. They are individuals, with lives that transcend the plot of the story and therefore, play a far more profound part in the novel's entire design. At times, you'll really notice the grandeur of this novel. It plays with familiar themes, but there's a hard-hitting edge to them. He issues all the attributing factors that make up an empire and intensifies them with epic science fiction and supernal metaphysics. That brings me to the subject of expanded human conciousness, a phenomena that interlocks with many of the characters. I've seen plenty of science ficiton play with the idea of superhuman ilks; most notably in space operas. But they mostly consist of characters who fit a comic book type description and don't go any further than that.Dune is so compelling because these superhuman oddities deconstruct the psychology of the character. Because of this, they're actually interesting. Sure, they hold a power that supersedes any great force in the universe, but Herbert is quick to remind us they are still human. And this goes for every character, no matter their physical anomalies. And as bizarre and fantastical as it may initially appear, his work still remains a strong, serious subject of science fiction. His science fiction is built on the physical and the metaphysical, and the complex design of pseudo-divinity.As I mentioned, the characterization is nearly perfect. Sure, the work is more traditional, it has villains hungry for power and reluctant heroes who must embrace their fate, but it's compelling. I think the romance in this novel was handled incredibly well. It didn't start with mere physical attraction and it isn't established with some cheesy back story. It's warm, sweet and realistic. It builds gradually, and doesn't distract the story but improves it.Herbert is an (if not 'the') instigator of heavily modifed drugs playing a part in a relatively large work of science fiction. But he's most reknown for revolutionizing space operas. Neither the men or women were scantily clad, his vision of romanticism wasn't cheesy or falsified, and all his characters were three-dimensional and vivid without having to be cartoonish. Granted, the traditional villains may come off as so. But thinking about it, villains like Feyd Rautha and Baron Harkonnen seem to be Dune's answer to terrifying historical figures like Nero or Robespierre.Frank Herbert's Dune is bold and energetic. His science fiction is smart, strange and intriguing; it never substitutes substance for style and better yet, never emphasizes his concept over story or character. For all it's intelligent, complex, and metaphysical prowess, Dune is just a fantastic story. Being one of few that I had both the time and pleasure to read more than once. There are so many ideas here that are just unforgettable, and it's easy to see why it's considered so revolutionary.


If this isn't a formative text, then I don't know what is. I figure evangelicals have the bible, and usually a regressive translation at that, while my family had weird science fiction novels. One that all ten of my brothers and sisters read was Dune. It's true. I grew up in a large family. A sprawling sort of California family of Hippie-Hillbillies positioned precariously on the edge of the continent that seemed to be positioning itself to dump us all into the ocean. We had a small herd of goats and lived on a dirt lot up in the mountains. Our home was an old sunday school bus, bought from a biker gang called "The Satanic Sluts" that roared around the streets of El Monte. We had one copy of Dune between us and my father would crouch in the gray dust next to the broken down VW Bug and he read aloud from this tattered and yellowing copy of Dune. As he read, the wind would blow through the wild flowers, and our little herd of goats would forage through the hillsides, trampling and collapsing the dens of coyotes as they went. At night the coyotes would emerge from their collapsed dens, shaking dust off of their bodies and they would trot off into the distance. When the wind blew, we gathered beneath our mother's apron and stuffed our mouths with wild blackberries. The sun rose and our ragged blond heads bobbed over those steep hills.

Rajat Ubhaykar

In my head, the purpose of this review is very clear. It is to convince YOU to read this book. Yes, you! Waste time no more. Go grab a copy.Machiavellian intrigue, mythology, religion, politics, imperialism, environmentalism, the nature of power. All this set in a mind-boggling, frighteningly original world which Herbert ominously terms as an "effort at prediction". Dune had me hooked!First impressionThe very first stirring I felt upon opening the yellowed pages of Dune was that of stumbling upon an English translation of an ancient Arabic manuscript of undeniable power and potence which had an epic story to narrate. The tone was umistakably sombre and I realized Herbert was not here to merely entertain me, he was here to make me part of the legend of Muad'Dib. It was intriguing and challenging and heck, since I live for challenges I decided to take this one up too, gladly. The challenge was the complexity and depth of the plot, which left me perplexed, in the beginning. I knew there were dialogues which meant much more than their superficial meaning and was unable to grasp at it. I felt a yawning chasm between Herbert's vision and my limited understanding of it. However, of course, I plodded on and could feel the gap closing in with every page much to my joy and relief. The Foreword"To the people whose labours go beyond ideas into the realm of 'real materials'- to the dry-land ecologists, wherever they may be, in whatever time they work, this effort at prediction is dedicated in humility and admiration." The foreword makes it pretty clear that Frank Herbert isn't kidding around. This is a serious effort at predicting how our world is going to look two thousand years from now and by God, it's a bloody good and detailed prediction. However, the real merit in this effort lies in the commentary on our lives in the present.Why Frank Herbert is a geniusThe setting of the book is arid futuristic. the plot is driven by political mindgames reminiscent of The Game of Thrones. The issues he tackles are as modern as the colour television. Herbert's genius manifests itself in his ability to combine the past, the present and the future in one sweeping elegant move called Dune.Plot and SettingDune is set in a futuristic technologically advanced world which after the Butlerian Jihad (the bloody war between Man and Machines) has eliminated all computers and passed a decree declaring "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man's mind". Since there are no computers, the essential working of the galaxy is still medieval and feudal with heavy reliance on men and their dallying around. Lots of thriller potential right there. Men with superhuman analytical abilities called Mentats have taken the place of Computers. On the other hand, we have the Bene Gesserit, an ancient school of mental and physical training for female students (it gives them superhuman intuitive powers) who follow a selective breeding program which makes them feared and mistrusted through the Imperium. Their desired end product of this breeding program is the Kwisatz Haderach, a superman who’ll be able to glimpse into the future. How he’ll be able to do this is rooted in Herbert’s idea of determinism: given that one can observe everything and analyze everything, one can effectively glimpse the future in probabilistic terms. Quantum physics anyone? The Kwisatz Haderach is the proposed solution to the male-female dichotomy, between the analytical and intuitive.The plot of Dune is almost wholly set on the desert planet of Arrakis (also referred to as Dune), an arid wasteland where water is so scarce that men have to wear stillsuits which recycle human moisture for further consumption. The source of the galaxy’s interest in the planet is Melange, a spice which bestows upon one longevity and prescient powers. Everything on the planet is permeated with the spice, the air, the sand, the food. Everybody on the planet is hopelessly addicted to the spice, their only hope for survival being their continued intake of the spice. The Spacing Guild, the economic and trading monopolistic arm of the Galaxy badly needs the spice for interstellar transport. This is because their frigates travel faster than the speed of light and hence travel backward in time. The spice is the only way they can look into the future and see their way ahead. How cool is that! All the powers on the Galaxy are out to mine the spice, braving the sandworms, their name merely an euphemism, for they are gigantic 200 metre long creatures which always come digging through the sand whenever spice mining is undertook. Always. There’s also another little glitch. There exist on the planet, the kickass native desert tribal Fremen, whom the foreign powers look down with suspicion and disdain. The Fremen ethos is one of survival and scarcity, driven by tribalism and egalitarianism. Okay, I’ll stop right there. No more spoilers about this. Except that they value water to the extent that spitting on a person is the highest honour they can bestow upon him.Our protagonists are the Atreides family, consisting of the Duke, his Bene Gesserit concubine Jessica and their son Paul, who have been entrusted the stewardship of Arrakis. We discover the alien planet of Arrakis along with them, firstly with fear, suspicion and wonder and ultimately, love and respect. Paul Muad’Dib, however is no ordinary prince. There’s a teeny weeny chance he might be the Kwisatz Haderach, something which troubles him constantly and gives us our conflicted hero. The poor chap trips balls over the spice and has visions of black hordes pillaging and murdering around town bearing his flag and sees his dead body multiple times.My favourite character, however has to be the Baron Vladmir Harkonnen, the most evil character I’ve ever come across in my literary excursions. He is ruddy ruthlessness, he is virile villainy, he is truculent treachery. He executes the inept chess players in his employ which says oodles about his badassery and his fondness for cold-blooded logic. He sees everything in simplistic chess terms. What is my best move? What is my opponent’s best move? Is there anything I can do to completely squash his move? Is there a tactic which leads to mate in three? ThemesIn this setting, Herbert does so much, it’s unbelievable. Religion, politics, the dynamic nature of power, the effects of colonialism, our blatant destruction of our environment are themes which run parallel to the intensely exciting and labyrinthine plot. He shows the paramount importance of myth making and religion for power to sustain over long periods of time. Man, as a political animal is laid completely bare.Real lifeNow these are my thoughts about what Herbert could have meant to be Arrakis-It makes perfect sense. Herbert draws heavy inspiration for the religious ideology of Muad’Dib from Islam. He says “When religion and politics ride in the same cart and that cart is driven by a living Holy man, nothing can stand in the path of such a people.” which is the philosphy of the politics of Islam. Islamism in a nutshell. The spice, much desired by everyone, is the oil. Baron Vladmir Harkonnen is symblomatic of the wily Russians. The Desert foxes Fremen are representative of the native Saudi desert-dwelling Bedouin tribe who have a strongly tribe-oriented culture and undoubtedly value water in equal measure. And the ultimate loser is the environment.Why do good books get over?I almost forget this is a science fiction novel, it’s that real. It is also scary and prophetic. It is a reading experience that will leave you dreaming of the grave emptiness of Arrakis and make you wish you were there to brave it all in the privileged company of the noble Fremen. Frank Herbert achieves the pinnacle of what a sci-fi author aspires to rise to; authentic world building.


There's a characteristically witty essay by Borges about a man who rewrites Don Quixote, many centuries after Cervantes. He publishes a novel with the same title, containing the same words in the same order. But, as Borges shows you, the different cultural context means it's a completely new book! What was once trite and commonplace is now daring and new, and vice versa. It just happens to look like Cervantes's masterpiece.Similarly, imagine the man who was brave or stupid enough to rewrite Dune in the early 21st century. Like many people who grew up in the 60s and 70s, I read the book in my early teens. What an amazing story! Those kick-ass Fremen! All those cool, weird-sounding names and expressions they use! (They even have a useful glossary in the back). The disgusting, corrupt, slimy Harkonnens - don't you just love to hate them! When former-aristo-turned-desert-guerilla-fighter Paul Muad'Dib rides in on a sandworm at the end to fight the evil Baron and his vicious, cruel nephew, of course you're cheering for him. Who the hell wouldn't be?So that was the Dune we know and love, but the man who rewrote it now would get a rather different reception. Oh my God! These Fremen, who obviously speak Arabic, live on a desert planet which supplies the Universe with melange, a commodity essential to the Galactic economy, and in particular to transport. Not a very subtle way to say "oil"! They are tough, uncompromising fighters, who are quite happy to use suicide bombing as a tactic. They're led by a charismatic former rich kid (OK, we get who you mean), who inspires them to rise up against the corrupt, degenerate... um, does he mean Westerners? Or only the US? And who is Baron Harkonnen intended to be? I'm racking my brains... Dubya doesn't quite seem to fit, but surely he means someone? Unless, of course, he's just a generic stereotype who stands for the immoral, sexually obsessed West. This is frightening. What did we do to make Frank al-Herbert hate us so much? You'd have people, not even necessarily right-wingers, appearing on TV to say that the book was dangerous, and should be banned: at the very least, it incites racial hatred, and openly encourages terrorism. But translations would sell brilliantly in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and a bad movie version would soon be made in Turkey.I honestly don't think Herbert meant any of that; but today, it's almost impossible not to wonder. If anyone reading this review is planning to rewrite The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, you'd better make sure you get your timing right. Who knows how it will be interpreted five years from now?This review is in my book If Research Were Romance and Other Implausible Conjectures

John Wiswell

No one should argue the importance Dune. It laid the foundations for a great deal of the themes and constructs in modern science fiction. Frank Herbert was as important to the genre as Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke. Unfortunately, just like them, he's quite dated, and his books can be a labor to read. One thing he maintained from old science fiction was prim and scientific dialogue that no one would ever actually speak. I've known many scientists, and they don't talk like this. You're not going to convince me a child does.The stuffy dialogue is inserted into even stuffier narrative, until it feels like nothing is organic about Herbert's prose. This is a terrible tragedy when you've got a world that he put so much effort into building - and it is an amazing feat of world-building, technically interplanetary building. But unlike J.R.R. Tolkien, who he is so frequently compared to, Herbert didn't make sure to include a great story in his world. Instead he included a story that frequently illustrated how clunky an artificial world can be, even if it's lovingly crafted. I struggled to attach or find interest in anyone, yet they're more archetypes than human beings, whose logic races past modern skepticism and whose dialogue is cloyingly artificial, the way people cared for the Hobbits, Dwarves and Rangers. In his world-building, Tolkien at least saved himself from being dated by antedating himself, and even with his illuminated prose, wrought more characteristics in just one protagonist than all of Dune's cast. Even the political intrigue Herbert tries to fall back on was overdone in the Spy genre decades before he started this book. All fans of the "Genre" genres should appreciate Herbert's massive contributions, but they shouldn't pretend to enjoy the books if they don't, and they should be wary of certain pitfalls typical of science fiction that survived into his landmark work.


How I Read Dune and Was Unenthused; or, George R.R. Martin Ruins EverythingIf I had read this as a teenager or as a young collegiate man, I probably would have given this book five stars. It's got a rich fictional world that blends sci-fi and fantasy elements. It's got an action-packed(ish) plot, but it also has a lot to say about politics, religion, ecology, et cetera. It's what I would have liked then.But I didn't read it then; I read it now, in 2013 as a still fairly young, but starting to feel my age as I near the almost-thirtieth year, especially when I look in the mirror at my hair (which keeps marching further up my scalp to expose my pale dome) and my stomach (which is currently imitating the undulating quality of a bowl full of jelly). I read it as an adult who has read George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, the current pinnacle of fantasy writing.Dune and A Song of Ice and Fire have many similarities and it was impossible for me not to compare the two. Each feature ruling families who find themselves in the middle of a mess of political intrigue, assassination, sex, poison, et cetera. Herbert wrote giant sand worms; Martin wrote dragons. They both wrote characters with telepathic powers. They both wrote complicated religions and dynasties with their respective hundreds of years of history and mythology. They both even share the willingness to kill of important characters for seemingly no reason.The thing is (and I must declare that this is simply my humble opinion), Martin does everything better than Herbert. Martin brings characters to life and makes you love them or loathe them. Herbert didn't do that for me at all. All of the characters in Dune felt either like robots or like the dullards you find in the cubicle next to you who think it's still hilarious to greet you with a "wasssssss uuuppppp". Dune has a lot of head, but no heart. And while there's a lot in the plot, it all feels very plodding. A plodding plot that ends with a whimper, not a bang.But I still gave it three stars. So it's not terrible. I just don't understand the hype.


People often forget that this series is what innovated our modern concept of science fiction (up until Neuromancer and The Martix, at least). Dune took the Space Opera and asked if it might be more than spandex, dildo-shaped rockets, and scantily-clad green women. Herbert created a vast and complex system of ancient spatial politics and peoples, then set them at one another's throats over land, money, and drugs.Dune is often said to relate to Sci Fi in the same way that Tolkien relates to Fantasy. I'd say that, as far as paradigm shift, this is widely true. Both entered genres generally filled with the odd, childish, and ridiculous and injected a literary sensibility which affected all subsequent authors.Few will challenge the importance of Star Wars' effect on film and storytelling in general, but without Dune, there would be no Star Wars. Princess Alia, the desert planet, the Spice, the Bene Gesserit, and Leto II all have direct descendants in the movies. It is unfortunate that Lucas seems to have forgotten in these later years that his best genius was pilfered from Herbert, Campbell, and Kurosawa.Though I have heard that the later books do not capture the same eclectic energy as the first, Dune itself is simply one of the most original and unusual pieces of Sci Fi ever written. Read it, Starship Troopers, Ringworld, Neuromancer, and Snowcrash and you'll know everything you need to about Sci Fi: that you want more.


** spoiler alert ** Terrible. To write a book, you should be able to do at least one of the following:1) Develop characters2) Tell an interesting story3) Write dialogue that vaguely resembles what someone might say4) Write sentences that might be interesting to a readerInstead, we are left with:1) One dimensional characters2) Plot summary: Talking, massacre, talking, religious ceremony, talking, man rides a worm, talking, massacre, talking, knife fight. Ta-da!3) Melodrama!4) Cliches!This might have made a passable movie, or video game, or commercial, or perhaps theme for children's lunchboxes. But a book is based on writing! You have to be a writer to write a book. I can't stress this enough. It's like saying that the violinist was out of tune, had no bow control or rhythm, couldn't remember the music, and the interpretation was hackneyed, but at least his pants were nice. The writing was egregious. All the "exciting action" was confusing, from sandworm riding to knife fights. Third person omnipotent, a shortcut to drama if I've ever seen it, was poorly executed. And the melodrama! Sweet Christ of Mercy no one ever said anything funny or guarded or nuanced or tender. Characters emotions were delivered as if Keanu Reeves was playing each part. Oh the humanity! The only thing that propelled me to finish the blasted thing was my hate for it.


Does the world need another Dune review? I very much doubt it needs mine but that never stopped me before, saturation be damned!Dune in and of itself, in isolation from the rest of the numerous other Dune books, is by general consensus the greatest sci-fi novel of all time. You may not agree, and one book can not please everybody but statistically Dune comes closest to achieving just this. Witness how often you see it at or near the top of all-time best sf books lists.I never read Dune with the intent to reviewing it before, it makes for a more attentive and actually more enjoyable reading experience. When I first read it in my early teens I did not really appreciate it, I thought it was good but overrated. There are just too much depth for my young mind to handle. I got the gist of the story just fine but the richness of the novel completely escaped me.What makes Dune superior to most sf books is the quality of the world building. Frank Herbert went into painstaking details of Arrakis without ever bogging down the story. During the main body of the novel (excluding the appendices) he did not once resort to making info dumps. How many modern day sf authors can do that? Still, world building alone can not possibly account for the legendary status of the book. Herbert places equal emphasis on the characterization, plot and prose. The book is full of memorable characters from the badass Lady Jessica, to Paul Atreides who starts off as a fairly generic Luke Skywalkerish “chosen one” kid to a messianic figure always ready with a sage comment for every occasion. The villains are even more colorful, especially the super-sized Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, so fat he needs anti gravity devices to help support his girth (cue worthless yo papa so fat he needs suspensors jokes). And his psychotic nephew Feyd-Rautha who is a ruthless natural born killer and seems kind of gay for some reason. When I read it as a young lad the book seemed very long, but by today’s gigantic epic sf/f books standard Dune’s 896 pages length does not seems like much of a challenge if you take into account almost 100 pages of appendices and glossary. It is a highly readable and accessible book that transports the reader to a very vividly realized place. If you are looking for a bit of escapism you can not beat reading Dune for the first time.That's enough review I think, I just want to make a few random observations for people who are familiar with this book (more than half the people who read this review imagine):- Most memorable scene for me is the “Gom Jabbar” test where Paul Atreides has his humanity tested by the Reverend Mother. What is yours?- I love the little quotes from all those Muad'Dib books by the Princess Irulan. How many are there? Is there a “Muad'Dib’s Cookery Without Water” or perhaps a Muad'Dib popup book for the kids?- The stillsuits are great, I want one!- What is with all the “ah-h-h” business most (lesser) writers make do with an "ah!" or an "aha!". Are the characters having orgasms?- Don’t skip the appendices, they are well worth reading.- Last but not least, do check out Dune - Book Summary & Analysis by Thug Notes on Youtube, preferably after you have finished Dune; it's funny, insightful and informative. Come to think of it, if you are having any difficulty getting through Dune you may want to watch this.

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