Review: Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I bought this from a small bookshop near my house called The Owl and the Cat Bookery that I didn’t know existed until I stumbled upon it one day. I’d heard of the book before, though I haven’t dived too deep into any hardcore science fiction until now.

Read: Apr. 24 – May 5, 2023

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Book contains: violence, language, implied sex

Can’t Believe I Found This So Interesting!

On the desert planet Arrakis, Paul Atreides must overcome the treachery against his house and rise to reclaim power to achieve humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

This book dives straight into Dune jargon, so much so that I thought I’d missed something somewhere. I was quite confused at first—only after finishing the book did I discover the term index at the back of the book—but I was too impressed by the solid display of knowledge the author showed for his world that I let it slip over me and let the terms become clear through context and repeated use. It’s not one of those books where the main character is learning about the new, magical world along with the reader; the characters already know most of what’s going on, what things are, and the politics surrounding the story. What we learn is only what the characters themselves don’t know (mostly the Fremen culture and practices) and what can be discerned from how things are mentioned or handled by the characters.

Paul Atreides, fifteen-years-old at the beginning of the book, seems to be the main character, though the book also follows other characters’ related narratives as well. It’s written in third person omniscient (it commonly switches from one character’s perspective to another), thus allowing us to read the thoughts of many different characters. However, after starting with Paul and his mother in the beginning, no perspective/setting shifts brought us to a character not previously mentioned.

This whole story felt a lot like the Coming of Jesus to me, and mostly, it is. Paul is the Messiah of the Fremen, a religious figure of their ancient prophecies who is the bringer of paradise. However, he is much more violent than Jesus (who preached turning the other cheek); he is a war commander and leader who will do whatever is necessary. Beginning with Paul’s coming to Arrakis, his world is quickly turned upside-down when he and his mother must flee after a hostile takeover. The story takes place over a span of three years, showcasing Paul’s journey from youth to powerful leader.

While I wasn’t initially drawn in by the story (which focuses a lot on politics, just in space) I was highly impressed by the depth of the research put into this book. I didn’t understand much of a political talk and jargon, but I can admire the scope of thought that was put into this world. Herbert has taken the idea of a desert planet and applied all questions to it: how does it affect their culture? Their currency? Their practices? Their language? I was so taken by all of the subtle nuances that it made the continuous influx of information an enjoyable time.

The politics of the world and surrounding planets are so interesting; it actually drew me into wanting to know more about politics. Herbert is a master of his craft and wields his world with such apparent ease that I found no flaws in his creation. It drew me so deeply into the story that the pages just flew by.

Something I noticed about the style of writing was that Herbert doesn’t enjoy using the word and. For example: when one would write “Jessica belted her robe and stepped into the hallway” Herbert writes “Jessica belted her robe, stepped into the hallway.” He has chosen to use a comma instead of the word and which took a little while to get used to, but I find it fascinating. As an editor, I would mark this as a possible grammatical error, simply because it’s so unusual, but Herbert does well in making this style his own, which teaches me something more about being an editor.

I recommend this book to lovers of hard science fiction, and even to people who have an interest in dipping their toes into the genre. It’s a bit of a wild ride at first, and is a very long book, but at no point was I unsatisfied with the story—I was quite hooked. Keep in mind that there are some mature and dark themes in this book.

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