DUNE. It’s been dubbed the “bible of science fiction.” Since its publication in 1965, Dune has captivated the minds of fantasy readers across the world. It is a story that was ahead of its time, and even now in 2020, it still holds true. It’s the source of countless pop culture references, and was the inspiration for Star Wars (I use the term inspiration loosely). Dune stans are almost as fanatic as the Fremen when it comes to worshiping their god – Frank Herbert – the man behind the six-novel series. Let me try to explain why.
Dune is a bird’s-eye-view type story about humanity and its relationship to the universe. Herbert’s universe is set thousands of years in the future, and it soon becomes clear that what it means to be human is in question. Herbert’s series investigates the struggle for power between feudalistic great houses within an interplanetary empire. In the background are numerous conflicts tied up in religious jihad, the Bene Gesserit breeding program, the Guild Navigators and their spice melange, and much more. However, the story isn’t solely an exercise in philosophical or political commentary. It becomes personal through the story of the main character, Paul Atreides, the son of the respected Duke Leto of the planet Caladan.
As for the plot of the first book, the story begins with the news that the Atreides family has been awarded the planet Arrakis (Dune) by the Galactic Emperor, ousting the vicious Harkonnens from the planet they’ve leached off for years. As the Atreides try to adjust to the punishing desert landscape of their new planet, a sinister plot unfolds to murder the Duke and destroy the family once and for all. Meanwhile, fifteen year old Paul is discovering that his fate is hopelessly intertwined with this planet of dust, gargantuan sandworms, and the mysterious spice melange, which when consumed can prolong life, grant prescience, and allow swift space travel. You’ll have to read to find out what becomes of the Atreides, but suffice it to say that the first book is my favorite of the series.
Herbert spent six years researching and planning before he wrote a word of Dune. And it shows. Reading through the series, it seems as if he’s pondered every philosophical problem related to leadership, civilization, and religion. It’s not your typical hero-adventure story either, as becomes clear in the subsequent novels. It’s terrifying and exhilarating to watch Paul come into his power. Herbert has a talent for creating compelling and morally grey characters who struggle with their ultimate purpose in a violent universe. It seems there isn’t a world in Herbert’s universe that isn’t stained with blood.
There are two reasons to read Dune in 2020. Firstly – it’s being adapted into a movie by critically-acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve. The film is highly anticipated by Dune fans due to Villeneuve’s stellar track record in creating masterful science fiction movies, such as Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. It’s set to release in December. Secondly, we all need a break from the state of the world right now, and a fat novel is always the cure for reality.
For fans of: Hyperion, Leviathan Wakes, Game of Thrones, Foundation