Book Review: Dune – Frank Herbert
Today’s book review is slightly later than scheduled as I had an exam on Wednesday that I was preparing for. I’m pleased to say that all my efforts were worth it and I passed!
I’m looking forward to sharing today’s review of Dune by Frank Herbert. It is a book I really enjoyed reading earlier this year and is the introduction to a grand science-fiction series but I’m looking forward to exploring in more detail!
Dune – Frank Herbert
Publication Date: 16/07/2015
Melange, or ‘spice’, is the most valuable – and rarest – element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person’s life-span to making intersteller travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis.
Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.
When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis’ second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands.
In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them.
And his journey will change the universe.
Having just read a science-fiction novel before reading Dune, I was excited to immediately pick up another. It’s a genre I am reading a lot more of. But where my prior read, The Feedback Loop, was light and palatable, Dune offered me a fantasy-esque epicness I love! I had sampled of the first few pages of the book casually before, so I had an idea of what I was committing to reading. And yet, it became so much more! Dune was plenty I hoped for, and then some more.
This book is a science-fiction on a grand scale. There is a vast amount of history in world-building that is incorporated even as the opening chapters unfold. It is clear that a lot of investment was put into the characters backstory, and it is entertaining to uncover as the main story begins. There is a lot of familial conflict and resentment that drive the plot. Think of Game of Thrones, but in space! It’s a complex web of alliances and forces, but without being too difficult to follow.
The events that take place are consistent within the universe created and the flow of the narrative is impressive. There are also elements of mystical powers and magic to the story, which I really enjoyed. As a huge fantasy fan, this really appealed to me, although unfortunately the book employed some fantasy tropes I am less than enthusiastic for.
Our protagonist Paul is his mother’s son, and much more besides. Jessica is Bene Gesserit, part of an exclusive sisterhood who have trained themselves to acquire and hone magical abilities. We discover very early on that Paul has inherited these abilities, and Jessica has been training him to control them. What I really didn’t like, however, is that boys are not supposed to have the magical power that Paul does. But of course, Paul having this ability makes him *much better* than women who have it.
Obviously… Why is this gender difference a thing?
There is another character for whom I think the author did injustice, and that is our villain, Baron Harkonnen. Described as so grossly fat that he cannot support his own weight every time he appears in the narrative, Frank Herbert shows an obvious prejudice that he employs to paint this already immoral character in an even worse light. This isn’t the worst though. Around 200 pages in, I feel like the author challenges to make Baron Harkonnen even more of a villain, and decided to do so by making him gay. Bear in mind the book was originally published in 1965, and in this sense it definitely shows its age. Society has a very different attitude now to that which was present when the book was published – and certainly for the better!
Whilst I didn’t love every aspect of the book, overall I enjoyed it very much and added the sequel to my TBR immediately after finishing it (which I have since gone and read). No book is ever perfect, and the great elements outweigh the few gripes I have. It’s an entertaining science-fiction read all the same, and a bit of a classic, so I hope that you will give it a chance for yourself!
Have you read Dune, or any other books in the series? Have you watched the recent film that was released? I’d love to hear in the comments!