According to Wikipedia this book is the biggest selling Science Fiction book ever. I had wanted to read it before knowing that, if I’m honest, as I love classic scifi. H.G. Wells is most definitely one of my favourite authors, and I had wanted to branch out a bit into other areas of classic scifi. So I decided to pick this up and see what’s what…
Before The Matrix, before Star Wars, before Ender’s Game and Neuromancer, there was Dune: winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.
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.
I started reading this book with such high hopes, but the further I got into the harder it became to stick to and to finish. I know that there are people out there that must swear by the book as though it were some sort of religion, but I found it mighty hard to keep going through it.
We are introduced to the Atreides family, Duke Leto, his concubine Lady Jessica, and their son Paul. There’s a lot of world building going on, with a lot of political intrigue, alongside the internal and external politics of the time. There’s an empire, with a somewhat ruthless Emperor on the throne, lots of backstabbing and killing, double meanings and intrigue.
On Arrakis there is the most valuable material in the whole universe, a spice called Melange [I didn’t realise that this was what it was called until someway through the book]. Duke Leto has been put in charge in a politically motivated stunt that will see him killed. And he knows it.
There’s also a lot of mention of religion, from the Bible through to the appropriation of the Arabic/Islamic terms – the one that sticks out the most for me is Jihad. I didn’t enjoy this side of things all that much, but perhaps that is because I’m looking at the book from the modern perspective [absolutely nothing against the peaceful religion of Islam, but obviously, very against Jihad]. Perhaps for me I felt that this was an awful lot of cultural appropriation that could have simply been invented rather than stolen. I’m sure that there are going to be plenty of people out there that disagree with that sentiment, but that’s how I feel.
I completely failed to understand the Bene Gesseret [I’m not entirely sure I’ve spelt that right], nor the bringing of a messiah through Paul. But… it happened.
I found it hard to keep my focus on this one as well due to the way that it was written/constructed. There was a lot of shifts in time or shifts in events that weren’t clear that things had moved on until a few pages later. For instance, when Jessica and Paul are in the desert looking for the Freemen, I read it as though Jessica had fainted in their confrontation with Stilgar, but she hadn’t she was fighting him – but that wasn’t clear until we jump to Paul’s point of view of the action.
Also, in my copy – which was the 50th Anniversary edition – there were the square brackets that denoted editors notes  which obviously wasn’t exactly great as they were left in the book. Nothing brings you back to reality than something like that.
I did make it to the end of the book, and it was a struggle I can’t deny that. I did it because as I mentioned at the beginning of my blog, that this is one of the best selling scifi books ever. You can see the inspiration for other science fiction rooted in this one book – Star Wars being the biggest for sure, but other things like Tremors for instance.
After all this, am I likely to read the next one? No, not likely. I can respect that a lot of things are inspired by this book, but I’m not going to continue with the series. I’m happy I’ve read the first, but I’m not going to force my brain to read the rest.
Have you read this? What do you think?