Dune

/ posted in: Reading DuneDune by Frank Herbert
on 1965
Pages: 604
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

This Hugo and Nebula Award winner is widely to be considered the most prescient SF novel ever. It tells the sweeping tale of a desert planet called Arrakis, the focus of an intricate power struggle in a byzantine interstellar empire. Arrakis is the sole source of Melange, the "spice of spices." Melange is necessary for interstellar travel and grants psychic powers and longevity, so whoever controls it wields great influence. The troubles begin when stewardship of Arrakis is transferred by the Emperor from the Harkonnen Noble House to House Atreides. The Harkonnens don't want to give up their privileges, however, and through sabotage and treachery they cast young Duke Paul Atreides out into the planet's harsh environment to die. There he falls in with the Fremen, a tribe of desert dwellers who become the basis of the army with which he will reclaim what's rightfully his. Paul Atreides, though, is far more than just a usurped duke. He might be the end product of a very long-term genetic experiment designed to breed a super human; he might be a messiah. His struggle is at the center of a nexus of powerful people and events, and the repercussions will be felt throughout the Imperium.

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I first heard of Dune as a kid because a friend had comic books of the story that he showed me. All I remembered from it is that there were giant worms.

From Dune Quotes

Let’s just take a minute to appreciate the obsessive fandom that produces anatomical drawings of fictional worms.

When I heard that there was a Dune read a long going on I decided it would be a good time to go back and read a classic sci-fi book.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and the writing but there were a few things that bothered me.

1.  You know immediately who the bad guy is.  You are given access to the thoughts of all the characters so no one’s motives are a secret.  So even though “Who is the traitor?” is a major plot point, the reader knows from the very beginning.  There isn’t any suspense.  In case you are missing the obvious, each chapter starts with a passage from a book that was written about this period that gives even more facts before they happen.

2.  The characterization of women in the book is problematic.  There are very powerful women here who drive the movement of the story.  However, if you aren’t one of them, you are property who are given as a matter of course to whoever kills your previous man.  The author writes about them almost like they have to be there for breeding purposes and they do all the stuff in the background because someone has to.  This is definitely a male-centric novel which read a little strange to me because so much sci-fi that I read now is female-centric.

My favorite part of the book was the Freman.  They are the native race of the planet.  They are completely underestimated by the ruling class.  They have discovered ways to live and thrive in the desert that the other consider impossible.  They also have a dream of changing their world and are working steadily towards it with single-minded purpose as a society even though it is expected to take over 300 years to bear fruit.

This book is the first in the original author’s series of six and spawned a lot of other books in this universe also.  I might be interested in reading some of the newer ones to see if different authors address some of the issues I had, but I’m not sure if I’d be totally lost or not.

About Frank Herbert

“Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr. (October 8, 1920 – February 11, 1986) was an American science fiction writer best known for the novel Dune and its five sequels. Though he became famous for science fiction, he was also a newspaper journalist, photographer, short story writer, book reviewer, ecological consultant and lecturer.

The Dune saga, set in the distant future and taking place over millennia, deals with complex themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics and power. Dune itself is the best-selling science fiction novel of all time[1] and the series is widely considered to be amongst the classics of the genre.” from Wikipedia