Dune by Frank Herbert (Book Review)

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There was a lot of hype built up around my reading of the Sci-Fi classic Dune. Ostensibly labelled the greatest science fiction novel of all time, Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel about the transformation of a young Duke’s heir into a legendary leader know as Muad’Dib on the desert planet Arrakis certainly lived up to expectations. That is not to say it did not have it’s flaws. 

The following is my personal review for Dune by Frank Herbert. For the plot summary and a brief explanation of why I chose to read Dune please read this. The following might contain major plot spoilers for the novel. 

In all honesty this post should really be titled “How Game of Thrones Ruined a Sci-Fi Classic.” That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Dune. I just can’t help but to think that I might have enjoyed it even more if I had never read George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

To begin with, Dune without a doubt held up to it’s reputation as the epitome of science fiction. I am still on the fence as to whether or not I would label it the best sci-fi novel, but I’m having a hard time thinking of anything better. Put a mark in the G.O.A.T. column.

Herbert did a superb job of blending base plot elements with more intellectual ideas such as religion, environmentalism, and capitalism. The true beauty is that if someone wanted to, they could read Dune simply as a story of revenge. There would be nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think that’s great. If the reader is looking for something to sink their teeth into, this story more than lends itself to that task. As someone who has a degree in Literature, I have a hard time avoiding the latter.

At the heart of this “next level” is the Fremen people. Herbert’s creation of the indigenous people of the desert planet Arrakis is a wonderful example of giving an entire culture, as well as the individual characters of that people a vivid depth and complexity that surprises both reader and protagonist alike. (A rather considerable feat, in my opinion, giving that this novel debuted in the 1960s.)

The connection between the foreign protagonist Paul, his mother – who is a figure of a galactic religion in her own right – and the Fremen is one of complexity and ethical debate. I would go as far as to say that this relationship and the effects therein is the true central conflict. The betrayal/revenge plot line simply serves as a medium through which that relationship can begin to take form. The only thing keeping from completely losing myself in that relationship was my desire to know more about certain elements of the story.

You would think that 450 pages would be enough to explain everything. But, this is where Game of Thrones comes in. I am used to having multiple 600+ page books to explain even the most minute details. After that, it’s hard to settle for anything less.

If I had one complaint about Dune it would be that the main plot seemed rushed. More than once I was frustrated when Herbert plunged forward with the plot rather than taking a moment to fill in the details. This world building that Herbert undoubtedly did was somewhat undermined by the lack of any true exploration of it. It seemed that the reader received only enough information to keep the plot moving forward at breakneck speed.

I understand that the concept of the 800 page novel was not as prevalent then as it was now. I’m not sure if Herbert worried that weighing in at 450 pages would be pushing reader patience already or what. Either way I needed more.

It may very well be that many of the questions I still have are answered in subsequent books. More than one person has told me that Herbert’s follow-up Dune Messiah is actually better than the first. Time will tell. I have a few books to read before I can pick that one up.

Despite my complaints I found Dune to be a very entertaining read. Many of the ideas and creations throughout the book seemed new and novel, even after 50+ years. It is easy to see why this novel has experienced longevity in success. I would undoubtedly recommend Dune to any fan of sci-fi novels.

Dune Rating: 4/5

What were your thoughts? Drop a comment below and let me know.

Cheers,

-C

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