DUNE. The word may mean nothing to you, or it may evoke the greatest science fiction story ever told. Since its publication in 1965, Dune has captivated the minds of readers across the world. Dune lovers are almost as fanatic as the Fremen when it comes to worshiping their god – Frank Herbert – the genius behind the six-novel series. It’s been dubbed the “bible of science fiction.” And after reading it for the first time in 2020, I finally understand.

One of Dune’s main appeals is its scale. Herbert’s universe and its relationship to humans transcends millions of years. It involves the rise and fall of complex societies, religious jihad, and the struggle for power between feudalistic great houses within an interplanetary empire. 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.

The story begins with the news that the Atreides family has been awarded the planet Arrakis (Dune) by the 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. The spice melange not only allows humans to travel swiftly and safely through space, its consumption also prolongs life and can grant prescience. The story is a slow build that leads up to an epic battle which makes for a satisfying conclusion.

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. 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

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