top of page
  • Writer's pictureM.C.

Book Review - Dune




I recently finished reading Frank Herbert’s Dune for the first time, and I can’t believe I had waited for so long. It is a foundational work of science fiction, exploring our own human history, behaviors, and constructs within the guise of an otherworldly story.


An intimidating tome at just over 600 pages, Dune could easily have been another 200 pages longer and not suffered for it. The novel is divided into three books: Book I – Dune, Book II – Muad’Dib, and Book III – The Prophet. While events and interactions are meticulously yet engagingly detailed in books I and II, book III contains time jumps and frequent references to critical events that have taken place in those gaps. Herbert could have included that additional narrative and maintained the same level of story immersion throughout the entire novel.


What immediately stands out in this work is Herbert’s incredible world-building, that I would argue is on par with J.R.R. Tolkien or Isaac Asimov. Herbert developed an incredibly rich backstory spanning tens of thousands of years intertwining humanity’s political development, technological advancement, and cultural evolution.


By the start of Dune’s story, Herbert had already thought through the rise of Corrino Empire (as the 81st Padishah Emperor is currently on the throne), the development of the Spacing Guild (a monopoly controlling all interstellar FTL travel), the feudal Major Houses (including Atreides and Harkonnen) of the Landsraad, and the East India Trading-esque (or perhaps Amazon-esque) CHOAM company (Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles) that regulates all commerce in the galaxy and provides directorships to the Major Houses. And, of course, how spice melange is the critical resource everyone needs.


Needless to say, the backstory is rife with political intrigue and varying agendas as each of these entities search for more power and wealth. Then, Herbert intertwines religious themes represented through the Bene Gesserit with Paul Atreides as the prophesied Kwitsatz Haderach and the spiritual Fremen of planet Arrakis. Feudalism, ecological management, cultural tenets, colonialism, genetic engineering, and drug-induced expansion of consciousness are all aspects layered into the story.


Technological advancements are similarly creative with the development of Mentats (cybernetically enhanced humans who can strategize complex schemes and counter-schemes), personal force shields that protect against fast-moving threats but can be defeated with slow movements, and dragonfly-like ornithopters which beat their wings in a blur to transport people.


Descriptions of characters, worlds, and events are detailed and supported with plenty of internal thought and underlying emotion. It is clear what emotional journey each of the main characters take and why. The one negative aspect to Herbert’s writing style is constant head-hopping among characters. He jumps into the mind and internal thoughts of one character to another with reckless abandon within the same scene. In today’s environment eschewing an omniscient narrator who jumps from character to character, it takes some getting used to, but it does not detract from the overall story.


The novel is engrossing and difficult to put down once begun. Yet it is one of the works every science fiction aficionado should read. And once Dune is complete, five additional books of the Dune Chronicles written by Frank Herbert remain: Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. Additionally, Herbert’s son Brian Herbert, along with science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson, have published additional novels taking place both before and after the main series.


I highly recommend a thorough review of Herbert’s Duniverse.

Comments


bottom of page