Ten years after Lord of the Rings, twelve years before Star Wars, and nineteen years before David Lynch’s godawful film adaptation, Dune holds true as perhaps the greatest science fiction epic of all time. Frank Herbert’s masterwork of a novel (and five sequels) realizes through the mythos and mystique of the planet Arrakis (a.k.a. Dune) the fertile intersection of ecological, colonialist, feminist, Marxist, religious, and philosophical debates compacted in this prophetic, addictive, and somehow familiar journey through the most unfamiliar of worlds. Dune is heavy without pretension, enjoyable without ease, and immersive without the escapism that cheap science-fiction promises: fantasy without the reminders of why we choose to look elsewhere for answers.
The journey that readers and the characters themselves take on this hostile planet begins with Herbert’s hero Paul Atreides being initiated into the rites of a secret order as the reader too is sucked into a world full of intrigue, subterfuge, and tightly packed action. Be warned though that the initial chapters demand patience: Herbert projects a Tolkienesque universe of history and language, elaborately detailed in the work’s four-part appendix, planetary map, and the book’s “Terminology of the Imperium” referencing hundreds of words and phrases. But the payoff is certain – it’s the world’s best-selling science fiction novel (so it can’t be that difficult) and winner of science-fiction’s two most important awards: the Hugo and Nebula. Cartography and encyclopedias aside, the minutia isn’t essential to fully experiencing Dune’s full effect. The novel holds up not just in its political ponderings but magnificently as a riveting tale established in the tradition of the adventuring hero we’re all too blissfully drawn to.
Although Herbert stuffs the text with abstruse references to Islam, cybernetics, and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the novel is undeniably excellent and thought-provoking. For true fans of science-fiction give it a reread. For those interested in delving into the realm of science-fiction look no further for your opportune introduction. And for those just wanting a classic page-turner of a story, you’ll get that and so much more: the likes of intergalactic war, taut characterization and suspense, and a grandiose setting that replicates the cinematic visions that made the space-opera possible. Did I mention it has thousand-foot sandworms?
This episode covers exactly the first half of Dune in terms of pages in the narrative section (i.e., excluding the Glossary). In other words, we read through page 235 in the 40th Anniversary Edition of the book. In other other words, we read up to the chapter that begins with the epigraph "At the age of fifteen, he had already learned silence." Is that clear as mud??
Produced by Phillip Griffin.
Next episode we'll be finishing our discussion on Dune! To catch up on the rest of our episodes and delve into some more great books click here.