Author: Frank Herbert
No. of Pages: 535
First Released: 1965
Synopsis (Courtesy of Goodreads): "This Hugo and Nebula Award winner tells the sweeping tale of a desert planet called Arrakis, the focus of an intricate power struggle in a byzantine interstellar empire. Arrakis is the sole source of Melange, the "spice of spices." Melange is necessary for interstellar travel and grants psychic powers and longevity, so whoever controls it wields great influence.
The troubles begin when stewardship of Arrakis is transferred by the Emperor from the Harkonnen Noble House to House Atreides. The Harkonnens don't want to give up their privilege, though, and through sabotage and treachery they cast young Duke Paul Atreides out into the planet's harsh environment to die. There he falls in with the Fremen, a tribe of desert dwellers who become the basis of the army with which he will reclaim what's rightfully his. Paul Atreides, though, is far more than just a usurped duke. He might be the end product of a very long-term genetic experiment designed to breed a super human; he might be a messiah. His struggle is at the center of a nexus of powerful people and events, and the repercussions will be felt throughout the Imperium."
Comments and Critique: Read as part of the Social Justice Challenge and its focus on Water during the month of February, I was not quite certain what to expect upon picking up this very famous and exalted book. I remember how much my mother loves the movie version of the book and faintly remember being thoroughly confused by the plot every time I tried to watch it as a girl. I remember the focus on Spice and the blue eyes, and the sand worms. Who could forget them? But the plot itself remained a mystery.
This is one of the most technical science fiction books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It was so complicated that I was not certain I wanted to finish this book. I am personally not a tremendous fan of science fiction, and the world in Dune is so foreign that it truly was a turn-off in the first fifty pages. However, once I read past those initial pages, I found myself drawn into a very rich world that reminds me very much of Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings trilogy in its detail and specificity. I particularly loved the details that were reminders of our own world, especially since the book itself is supposed to take place 8,000 years into the future. It increased the plausibility of the book to be able to recognize such words like baklava, Sunni, Ramadan, and the like.
This book is very much about character development. Paul Atriedes starts out as a youth still being trained for his future as Duke of a planet and faces total destruction of his family and his House. He is thrust into a foreign environment so harsh, so desolate that to live there is considered a death sentence. Watching him grow and accept his role as leader of the House Atriedes as well as the Fremen of Arrakis is the entire book, but it is a fascinating journey.
Dune is extremely well-written with exacting details that are incredibly realistic. It is by no means an easy book to read. As much as I anxiously turned each page and so desperately wanted to find out how it ended, I had to read each page slowly and carefully because it is so technical. Mr. Herbert bounces around between ecology, military science, politics, religion, technology, geology, sociology and psychology using his own language and phrasing that does make the book read at times like a training manual in a foreign language. However, it is well worth the effort and time to decipher each page because of the beauty of the world of Arrakis and the universe created by Mr. Herbert. It may be harsh, cruel, corrupt, and unforgiving but the age-old battle of humanity and equity versus power is familiar enough to provide its own lessons about humanity, dedication and power.
On the planet Arrakis, water is power. To cry for someone or something is the ultimate sacrifice because it is wasting valuable water (tears) for no purpose. Water is the ultimate source of currency because on a planet that does not get any rain, water is life. To tie that to our society today, this is a familiar idea. Water is power and always has been. In ancient times, civilizations were built and destroyed based on their ability to grow around and control major waterways. In the most desolate parts of the world, being able to bring in a source of clean water remains a sign of wealth. What occurs in Dune - other than the mind-altering psychic powers achieved from the spice, the interstellar travel, the different planetary Houses, and the like - does pertain to today's society.
The need for water is so basic that those of us who are lucky enough to be surrounded by a seemingly endless supply of it take it for granted. Dune is a brutal reminder of the necessity of water and what it can mean for an entire society without access to it. In addition, the book remains a fascinating study of character growth, accepting new cultures and customs and adapting to a very sensitive political environment. The lessons taught about standing up for your belief system, honoring humanity, and paying attention to your surroundings are excellent and remain important today. If you are a science fiction fan, then you most likely have already read this book. If you have not, I highly recommend it.
Reading this book counts towards my 100+ Reading Challenge, Buy 1 Book and Read It Challenge, Chunkster Reading Challenge, Read 'n Review Challenge, Social Justice Challenge, and the Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge. To the FTC, Barnes and Noble was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of the book...after I handed them the appropriate amount of my hard-earned money.