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Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

By / July 21, 2012 / no comments

With some trepidation I decided to review one of Sci-Fi’s all time classics, despite professing to not actually being much of a sci-fi fan.* Written in 1965, Dune is one of the seminal pieces of science fiction that spawned a further 16 books, a movie, a couple of TV mini-series, various rock songs and numerous games. In fact, if you haven’t already heard of Dune already, you probably would be mistaken for having lived your life under a rock, in a desert, in a faraway world.

Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Dune is often cited as the world’s best-selling science fiction novel but can it also be said to fall into the realm of fantasy? In my mind, a lot of the characteristics of the book easily lend themselves to the fantasy genre, which forces me to best classify it is a hybrid fantasy/sci-fi novel or better yet a novel belonging to the science fantasy sub-genre. To paraphrase though, it’s fantasy Jim but not as we know it, due to the liberal use of galactic references involving space travel, advanced weapons systems and multiple planetary systems, even though these are not often to the fore. Perhaps the best supporting argument enabling comparison with fantasy works comes from Arthur C. Clarke’s quote that Dune is “Unique among SF novels…I know nothing comparable to it except Lord of the Rings”.

The book predominantly centres around a three-way power struggle between two Great Houses, House Atreides and House Harkonnen, and the Imperial Empire. House Atriedes is awarded a lucrative contract to harvest the spice crop, melange, on an inhospitable desert covered planet Arrakis, where water is considered the most precious of all commodities. This harsh planet is inhabited both with colonists and a desert nomad-like people, the Fremen, a people who share many traits with the Bedouin tribes including their honour code, collective tribal responsibility, coffee culture and Islamic religion.

The story follows a young prophet Paul Atriedes as he looks to unite the Freeman tribes with a common goal of defeating their enemies in order to improve the ecological viability of their planet. While it covers Paul’s early life, his adaptation to Dune’s harsh environment and how he looks to fulfill the prophecy surrounding him, classifying it as a boy comes of age story would, in my opinion, be far too superficial, most especially to there being enough political intrigue to give A Song of Fire and Ice a run for its money.

Herbert is quoted as having said that “he doesn’t like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden” but the following excerpt from Iron Maiden’s song To Tame A Land* provides a useful plot insight:

He is destined to be a King
He rules over everything
In the land called planet Dune
Body water is your life
And without it you would die
In the desert the planet Dune

Without a stillsuit you would fry
On the sands so hot and dry
In a world called Arakis
It is a land that’s rich in spice
The sandriders and the ‘mice’
That they call the ‘Muad’Dib’

Dune remains today, a wonderfully crafted story which has not dated at all, with the exception of the map at the beginning of the book which, in your mind’s eye, you can easily see having been created on a green screened computer and having utilized dot matrix printer technology. A bonus, as well, is that the book can very much stand along without any need to read the following novels in order for the reader to get full satisfaction. The reader is able to have an affinity for the main characters within the book and the plot captivates you from start to end, whilst the world building is nearly unparalleled.

For many of you, there will be nothing new discussed here. If you weren’t, however, and have ever wondered what all the fuss might’ve been about, do yourself a huge favour, avoid going anywhere near the movie and mini-series and go and pick up a copy and immerse yourself in the legend that is Dune.

 

This review was written by Antoxx for Bestfantasybooks.com

About the author

Ben

Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!

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