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March 06, 2017



By: Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert’s Dune is a science fiction classic. Look at any compilation of the most influential works in science fiction and you will find Dune somewhere near the top. After hearing about it and having it on my ‘to-read list’ for years, I decided it was finally time to read it. I was blown away.

The 800-page paperback is daunting at first. Part of the brilliance of the novel, however, is how rapidly the reader is introduced to the world, and the story moves rapidly from there. Paul Atreides is a young man thrust into a foreign planet economically motivated by the harvest of a rare drug yet separated by political agendas. Paul is forced to learn about the unfamiliar world as the story progresses—causing the reader to learn along the way. Astonishingly quickly, the world feels fully inhabited simply because of this narration. Due to his noble family, Paul is situated on one side of the conflict but of course learns much more about the situation the more he occupies the planet. Morality is not as obvious as Paul originally assumed.

Beyond the political conflict and psychological manipulation, Dune is simply exciting. There are incredible fight scenes where Paul shows off tremendous skill. Perhaps the most iconic parts of the Dune planet are the enormous sandworms that travel everywhere and devour everything. They can come from anywhere; no one is safe on the surface of the planet.

Dune is a book that demands to be read and then re-read. As with most epic fantasy or sci-fi works, characters and factions have unique names, so having a glossary nearby would not be a bad idea. Unlike some other franchises, though, I was not overwhelmed by too many characters. Instead, the world felt natural and established. There is also quite a bit of symbolism to comprehend and probably quite a bit more that I missed on my first read.

There is no questioning the influence of Herbert’s book on modern science fiction. Arthur C. Clarke (an impressive sci-fi writer in his own right) claimed, “I know nothing comparable to it except Lord of the Rings.” This is absolutely true; the world Frank Herbert imagines is similar in sheer scale to that of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. And not unlike the Lord of the Rings series, there are several books (authored by his son, Brian, or by Herbert himself) that serve as additional back-story to the world and characters of the original book. I was so enrapt with the story of the original that I personally plan to continue and explore more of the Dune franchise.

Review By:  Joseph Wooley