Way Too Late Review: ‘Dune’ Book Review
For our latest Way Too Late Review, we’re going to travel to the future and the remote desert world of Arrakis, more commonly known as Dune. For those who don’t know, back in 1965, Frank Herbert wrote Dune. The novel went on to tie for the 1966 Hugo Award and it won the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. In 2003, it became the best-selling science fiction novel in the world.
Based on that, everyone should have read this book. I’m ashamed to admit that, until very recently, that wasn’t true for me. I’d seen the 1984 movie of the same name, starring too many amazing actors to list, and loved it. The largeness of the story and intricacies enthralled me. I remember looking at the book in the library after seeing the movie but putting it back after flipping through it some and balking at the complexity.
Eventually, in my adult life, I decided enough was enough and that it was time to read Dune. Picking up a book that is over 50 years old can be difficult, like when you convince a young Harry Potter fan to read The Lord of the Rings and they say “I liked it but Gandalf seemed like a copy of Dumbledore” and you sit there quietly trying not to give a 30 minute lecture to your 13-year-old nephew about the greatness of Gandalf (not that this has happened to me or anything). Many of the things that you read in an old story that you’re reading for the first time might seem trite and cliché but you have to remember that when Dune came out many of these ideas were fresh and new.
In Dune, Frank Herbert tells a story full of political, religious, economic, and societal intrigue. It focuses on two families, the Atreides and the Harkonnen, as the main source of conflict. The Harkonnen family starts the novel in control of Arrakis but the Atreides have been given control by the Emperor of the Known Universe, Shaddam IV.
Arrakis is important because it is the only place in the entire Universe where the spice, Mélange (everyone just calls it “Spice”), is found. Spice is used to extend life, improve overall health, and to allow a small glimpse into the future, which is required for interstellar travel. There is danger in mining the spice, it is only found in the desert and it is protected by sandworms. These sandworms will attack and destroy, or swallow completely if it’s a big worm, any equipment mining the spice.
I don’t want to reveal too much and spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie or read the book, but the story is fantastic. Herbert crafts fully realized and fleshed out characters who are believably complex and who make believable choices. What is really striking is the way Herbert is able to tell so many different storylines. I talked earlier about the book being too long to read when I was younger but now I’m impressed with how much he packs into those pages.
The novel was well loved in its time too. Herbert went on to write 5 sequels and his son, Brian Herbert, has continued to build the universe that his father started. This has proved to be an enduring story that continues to be well read and spawned numerous movies and TV series adaptations. Dune is the subject of a current big-budget adaptation led by Denis Villeneuve and starring pretty much everyone in Hollywood.
If you’re a science-fiction fan and haven’t read Dune this is a judgment-free zone. I can’t recommend it enough though. This is a seminal work of science-fiction. It is everything that is good about science-fiction as well, a fictional story that pushes our understanding of ourselves much like the original Star Trek TV show was doing in the ’60s as well.
Dune can be found in several formats here.
Way Too Late Review
Dune is a fantastic book that ties in many well-thought and designed narratives. The world, or universe, that Frank Herbert creates feels like it’s been lived in for generations. The characters are more than just one-note tropes but believable people whose desires and plans are easy to accept.