If you haven’t read Dune before, you’ve probably at least heard of it. It’s one of the best-selling science fiction (or science fantasy) novels of all time, selling over 20 million copies. It won the Hugo in 1966, as well as the inaugural Nebula. The incredible worldbuilding was almost unheard of for the time, and it is still considered a classic.
The majority of the book takes place on the desert planet of Arrakis (sometimes known as Dune). Water is almost non-existent, and the entire culture of the planet revolves around conserving it. Perhaps the most iconic part of the setting is the giant sand worms. These things are gargantuan and can eat helicopters right out of the sky.
The other iconic part of Dune is the melange, or spice. Those who live outside of Arrakis consider the production of spice to be the planet’s primary role. This spice is highly addictive and has somewhat magical properties.
Dune takes place around 8,000 years in the future. As such, the technology is advanced (though computers are shunned for religious reasons). Most people have access to personal shields that protect against projectile weapons, so melee weapons like swords are still in use.
There are also several “mystical” orders, including the Bene Gesserit and the Mentats. The Bene Gesserit are women who are trained to sense the smallest details of body language, can compel people with their voices, and see likely paths the future will take. The Mentats are supremely logical and serve as advisers to those in power.
Most of the important characters in Dune are affiliated with House Atreides, which is given governorship of Dune at the start of the novel. Their main enemy is House Harkonnen, whose Baron is about as evil as evil gets (to the point where it’s almost a caricature at times).
Jessica is a Bene Gesserit and concubine to the Duke of House Atreides. Her son, Paul Atreides, is the central figure of the book. He is the Kwisatz Haderach, one with the ability to see the future and the product of hundreds of generations of selective breeding.
Early in the book, House Atreides leaves their home planet and arrives on Arrakis, which was previously controlled by the Harkonnens. They suspect that it is a trap, but the order for them to move came from the emperor and they can’t refuse.
On Arrakis, they meet the local people, called Fremen. The Atreides hope to form an alliance with the Fremen, who are intimately familiar with the planet and formidable fighters. As the Atreides struggle to adjust to the harsh life of a desert world, they must also outmaneuver the Harkonnens.
This book starts out slow. There are a lot of fantasy words and names to adjust to (though the main character is just called Paul), and the plot is heavily political. Around halfway through the novel, the pacing picks up quite a bit. I wouldn’t call the second half action-packed, but it definitely moves quicker.
The prose is a step above average. It’s not too flowery, and the descriptions strike a balance between length and painting a clear picture of the unique world. There are a good number of memorable lines and passages. My favorite was the litany against fear.
Should You Read This?
If you enjoy science fiction, original worldbuilding, and political intrigue, this is the book for you. It’s widely considered a classic and holds up well even more than 50 years later.
However, the weakest part of the book is the characters. If you need to feel a connection to characters, you might have a hard time with this. Also, the book is fairly slow for the first half.
Overall, this book is definitely worth trying if you like what you’ve heard so far. There’s even a movie being made, so now might be a good time check this out.
Recommended Beverage Pairing
This beverage is considered one of the rarest and most valuable of all beverages. Whole economic empires have risen and fallen over this sacred drink. Reverend Mothers and fanatical Fremen can all agree on this beverage’s restorative properties.
Above all else, one thing is certain…the Pumpkin Spice must flow.