Review: Dune

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, that was quite a journey – both in the amount of time it took me to finish the book and in the scope of the book itself. I guess I’ll consider it in that order. This book, like all sci fi books that deviate so much from how we live today that everything has a new name, is hard to get into. While it is good narrative form to jump into the story without walls of text explaining everything, when it’s as alien as this (no pun intended) it becomes impossible to know what’s going on. And that makes it hard to get invested in the story. Additionally, in order to have the big payoff at the end, Herbert spends a lot of time without much going on. I know I spent a lot of time wondering why this was such a heralded book in our fandom.

But even as I was struggling for purchase, the book held some of my favorite tropes. Like Asimov’s first Foundation book, it had quotes from an in-universe book that gave some context to what the future would hold based on the events of Dune. There was also evidence of a vast universe – which is what I loved about the Mass Effect games. The appendices add quite a bit of backstory to the book. It was also interesting to see a world in which apparently all religions had merged, but a great amount of Islamic ideas and words had made it into space.

Of course, how could I mask my delight at understanding the lyrics behind the hook in Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice. (… ) “Walk without rhythm and you won’t attract the worm”.

In the end, the book won me over as it sped towards the climax and conclusion. One of the best things Herbert does is also one of the best things GRRM does with A Song of Ice and Fire. Many people die who you don’t expect to die. People try to act for justice and fail. It creates an atmosphere where you don’t know what’s going to happen. Indeed, even once the Muad’dib can see the future he often sees his death. (After reading the description of what it’s like for him experiencing past, present, and future at once – I wondered if it was the source of inspiration for Alan Moore’s description of Dr Manhattan’s worldview in Watchmen).

If you want to read one of THE science fiction books not by Asimov, I can recommend this book. Just know that it has a slow start and ideally make use of the glossary at the back of the book. (One of the things that’s easier in a paper book than an ebook)

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