With all its quirks and things that I didn’t really care for, Dune is still an entertaining narrative, especially considering it is 50 years old.
3/5 15/25 Possible Score
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 3(Fine)
Setting/World Building – 4(Strong)
Writing Style – 2(Weak)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 2(Weak)
Dune is a story of the exploitation of a planet for its one of a kind spice that makes interstellar travel possible and is highly addictive. Because of the importance of this spice, many different political entities want to control it. When the Emperor decides it is time for one of the many Great Houses, House Atreides, to take over rule of the planet of Dune, from House Harkonnen, conflict ensues. The Harkonnens, led by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, wants to assassinate Duke Leto Atreides, the new ruler of Dune, and Duke Leto knows about the possible assassination, but wants to take advantage of it in a counter-attack.
Paul, Duke Leto’s son, and heir, is being bred by his mother to become the first male Benne Gesserit, a religious group with cognitive abilities, so that Paul can become a leader like none other. The inhabitants of Dune are called the Freman people and they are a very mysterious group that survive in the harshest conditions. When Paul is welcomed into the Freman people’s society, he might possibly be the prophesied savior of the Freman people, and of all Dune.
It is extremely difficult to review a book that is considered the greatest science fiction book of all time, a book that is loved by so many readers. Dune is a book that was so far ahead of its time when it was released in the 1960’s from all other science fiction because of the intricacies of the plot, the world building, and the complex political system. The connections that Dune has with the real world are the things that master thesis are written about and something that, honestly, I do not have the expertise to talk about. Suffice to say that world conservation, religion, addiction, and natural resources are all something that Dune draws a parallel to our real world. I just don’t have the intelligence nor the expertise to review Dune based off its influence to science fiction and how amazing it was when it was written. I can only review Dune, as a book, read by me today. I understand that Dune is many people’s favorite book, and I understand it’s importance on the influence of science fiction, but I can only review Dune based on my experience, at this moment.
Firstly Dune’s narrative is an engaging story of revenge. I really like the setup that Herbert created for this story. He could have introduced us to the story at many different points, but the introduction was just perfect. There was just enough backstory to get the story moving and then things just start rolling along. The political setup is absolutely fantastic and that is comparing it to current books. It is complex enough to use your brain but not enough to be confusing. The story progresses at an even pace with unforgettable scenes that I will remember forever. The chapters where the Freman people are explained and their riveting response to water was just captivating.
Herbert’s world building is great for even now, 50 years after the book was released. In an age when robots and computers dominated science fiction, Herbert asked what the future would be like if people turned from technology, and embraced religion more. Most of your science fiction turns away from religion but Herbert embraces it. The Freman are an iconic race of desert people that just completely fascinated me. Even though some of their ways may seem barbaric or without reason, it made for a very interesting world.
The part of Herbert’s world I had an issue with is the mysticism of the precognitive mystical abilities. I felt the narrative and world was strong enough without introducing inner-eye, seeing the future, aspects to the main character, that really didn’t offer the reader much. I would have enjoyed the book much more if Paul would have become this powerful leader on his own merit, maybe with some Benne Gesserit manipulation, but without his seemingly “magical” abilities. I just didn’t care for his abilities to see the future and thought it detracted from the story, especially when written randomly in the middle of a scene.
Even though Herbert’s writing was not too outdated, the randomness of the scenes, was something I never got used to. Many times characters would be conversing about one subject and then the subject or point of view would change so drastically that it felt like I missed a line of text. I would go back and reread the previous paragraph, to only find out that Herbert jumped the flow of the scene to something completely different. Many times, the mystical abilities were thrown in the middle of a scene, and that took you completely out of the book. Lastly about Herbert’s writing is that there were descriptions of the setting or characters that was either uncomfortable or just downright odd. The word choices were so jarring at times that it threw me out of the story or made me shake my head in confusion why he would explain something in that way.
Lastly, even though the characters were alright characters, I never became attached to any of them. I was more attached to the planet of Dune than any of the characters. The character I felt like I knew the most and was the most interesting was the antagonist Baron. Paul just wasn’t a likable character for me, and his struggle against the future he saw for his people did not impact me at all.
Overall the heavy use of religion and mysticism just didn’t work for me. I just really didn’t find Paul’s abilities reasonable or explainable to a degree that I was comfortable with. Regardless, I did enjoy the book, and I understand why some people love this book as much as they do. It is a good book, there were just things that were not for me. I am extremely happy to have read and enjoyed this book. A part of me thinks that I should of read this book earlier in my life and I would have appreciate it more. There are so many scenes that will stick with me for a long time.