Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of the most famous science fiction novels of all time. I believe it is also the highest selling science fiction novel of all time.
Touchstones – No Spoilers
Dune takes place in a universe ruled by the Padishah Emperor. He is the supreme ruler, though he relinquishes rule of individual planets to appointed governors in a feudal type society. The story begins with the Atreides family taking up the fiefdom of Arrakis, a vast desert planet with lush culture and ecology that the Atreides must learn in order to survive on the planet. The Duke’s son, Paul, is the son of a Bene Gesserit, a guild of women trained from birth with heightened senses and abilities. Paul shows signs and characteristics that lead many to believe he may be more than the son of the Duke and he must travel the lengths of the deserts on Arrakis to find the answers.
Plot: Simple plot with the “chosen one” story line. Not a bad plot, but simple. I think this is probably one of the weaker parts of Dune. The simple plot is elevated by world building and the lore that surrounds it.
Characters: I love the characters in Dune. There are around 15 or so major characters and I like how each person feels when reading them. They may not be the most fleshed out characters, but again I think the world that they inhabit elevates them. I’m only a couple of hours removed from finishing the book so things are still fresh, but I think Stilgar might be my favorite character. I think the time spent with him in the mid-portion of the book is also my favorite part.
Pacing: The pacing of Dune is admittedly a little slow, but I was fine with that throughout the entirety of the book. And that’s saying a lot from me as I’m still a pretty new reader. I was never really bored for long spans of time. There may have been some spots of boredom but it was always quickly turned away by something interesting happening in the world.
Payoffs and Decision Making: This one is a little weird. I think that the payoffs that you think will be gratifying, aren’t really. For example, major character deaths are kind of just something that happens and most of the time aren’t made into a big thing. But, other things that you wouldn’t expect end up being really awesome payoffs. For example, some parts of Paul’s rising through prophecy. The payoffs that you expect may seem like a little bit of a letdown. They do to me right now only hours removed from finishing the book, but maybe that’s not the point that Herbert was trying to get across.
Overall Score: 8.5/10 – This may change the more that I get to live with the book, but that is my gut score right after finishing.
Some Spoilers Ahead (Heads up – I ramble)
Dune is about Paul Atreides growing from boy to man…among other things. His father, Leto, is given fiefdom over a planet called Arrakis. Arrakis is a vast, desert planet with a valuable substance called melange, or spice. This spice is the most valuable substance in the universe due to its faster-than-light travel granting abilities. This also makes the fiefdom of Arrakis a sought after title.
Another house that seeks this title are the Harkonnens. Shadowy, treacherous figures headed by the Baron. The Baron seems to be so fat that he needs suspensors (which I believe are like little anti-gravity devices) to hold up his fat and allow him to walk around with ease. And, these Harkonnens plan to steal the fief of Arrakis from the Atreides family.
There are a ton of other things going on. Some of which I’m not sure I fully understand. I often wondered why the Emperor gave the fiefdom to the Atreides to then turn around and supply troops to the Harkonnens to help them take it over. It seemed to be answered by the fact that Duke Leto had amassed a strong enough army to challenge even the Emperor’s Sardaukar troops, but I thought this was kind of glossed over in almost one line. Can’t the Emperor just take the fiefdom away from the Atreides? (I’m sure there are some political reasons that I’m not grasping as to why he can’t or won’t.) Or why not just give it to the Harkonnens in the first place?
I’m kind of rambling there, but with that being said I loved the world of Dune. I love those sort of science fiction stories that take place in a vast world, but you only get to see a glimpse of it. I think that is the best way to world build.
Here is a world in Dune where numerous factions float around in the galaxy and universe, but we are confined to Arrakis. Some people may not like that, but I think it actually aids in world building. We hear of things such as the butlerian jihad. We hear about and read passages about this presence of the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV.
While all of this world is being built we get to travel the planet of Dune/Arrakis with Paul Atreides who seems to have every prophecy and foretelling pointing in his direction. Muad’Dib, Kwisatz Haderach, Lisan al’Gaib, etc. He is almost forced into fulfilling these prophecies at the beginning but as the story goes on he seems to grow into the rolls that have seemingly been laid out before him as he goes through his journey.
I would say my biggest problem with Dune is the fact that there’s almost no surprises. At least to me. When the prophecies are told to the reader and then the prophecies keep coming true it’s almost like you as the reader know what is going to happen before it does. And so, if Paul is in some sort of conflict or predicament, you know that he will prevail in the end and fulfill the prophecy. It’s not necessarily a big complaint for me, because in the end, that’s what Dune is meant to be about. It’s about Paul going on his journey to become Muad’Dib. I just wish maybe he had some pitfalls along the way to make me think “oh, maybe he’s actually not who everyone and their mom thinks he is.”
Another small nitpick, because this book was great, is that sometimes we seem to skip large amounts of time within the plot. And, I’m not even talking about the 2 years between the end of “book 2” and the beginning of “book three” within Dune.
There was one chapter where all of the sudden Paul has been in a coma for 3 weeks. I think maybe it could have been cool to see the actions that put him in the coma, because apparently he was poisoned. Unless I understood that wrong. It would have also been nice to see a little of Paul with his son. I honestly didn’t care that much when he died. But, then again, maybe you’re not even supposed to? I’m sure if Frank Herbert wanted the reader to care he would’ve given more time to that.
Another nitpick is I wish we could have seen the battle at the end when the Fremen are retaking Arrakeen from the Harkonnens and the Emperor. It would have been awesome to get some line-by-line action of that.
One small, tiny nitpick (if you can even call it that) is that it just seems weird or funny to me to picture a 4 year old girl out on the battlefield stabbing Harkonnens to death. I know she’s supposed to be super smart and stuff, but I mean…4 years old? Is she even strong enough to hold a blade? But I’m really reaching for stuff now.
Also, I will mention the fact that everyone says Star Wars copied Dune. I will say there are some things that Star Wars seemed to take from Dune. Like, the Jedi are pretty much Bene Gesserit except for the fact they have way more powers. The Bene Gesserit basically can sway people with their voice and have enhanced senses.
Tattoine is similar to Dune. Luke Skywalker is a form of Paul Atreides though I feel like Paul actually fulfilled the prophecy where I don’t even know if Luke did.
Also, it kind of seemed like Paul turned into Bran Stark there at the end with no emotion or anything towards anyone. Maybe that’s just me. Anyways…
The Final Thought
I feel like with how much hype that this book has around it that it is really hard to live up to those expectations. I get that the Dune is more about philosophy over action and that’s fine. I liked the action that we did get. I loved the sandworm riding scene. That was awesome. I guess maybe the end was a little anticlimactic in that what everyone already knew would happen happened. If that makes sense.
It also threw me off that Paul was so concerned with getting the throne at the end. I’m assuming he’s doing that so he can use his power for the better of Arrakis. For a moment at the end it just seemed like that’s all he cared about. And Gurney kept noticing how he didn’t care about people dying and only about the equipment they were losing. Anyways, I’m rambling again.
I really liked the book and I plan on reading at least up until God Emperor – possibly even the last 2 Frank books, but I’ve heard mixed things. We’ll see.
Let me know your thoughts because I’m sure some things were explained and I didn’t quite grasp them. I’d love to talk about it!