Dune

Monday, September 17, 2012


Dune
Frank Herbert, 1965

Hugo Winner - 1966

Premise: A classic epic of modern science fiction. Duke Leto Atreides is moving his tactical base and his family to the desert planet Arrakis. He hopes that control over the essential trade of the drug known as 'spice' – found only on Arrakis – will help him in the constant political struggles within the factions of the Empire. But his enemies are moving, betrayal is coming, and his son Paul will be left to seek the truth of the terrible purpose he has foreseen since he was a child.

Where can I even start with this book? I read Dune for the first time a dozen or more years ago, and I remember liking it, but not loving it. It's fascinating reading it in the context of its time now, because it is easily the best of the Hugo winners yet, in my opinion. It's a modern, layered novel of politics, alliances, human choices and fate. It takes place in a grand setting: a complex system of planets, factions, families and governments.

This book confounds me, because it breaks many of my personal rules. It jumps perspective in the midst of a scene when it's useful to do so in order to give the full picture. It blends mysticism, science and fakery in a way that shouldn't work. It occasionally jumps to characters who have little or nothing to do with the main plot.

Yet, it works. And it works brilliantly.

I loved re-reading Dune; I think I caught many more of the bits of exposition about the world that were snuck in around the edges of the story. I understood the story a lot better, including the story under the story that I think is expanded in the second book – the story about the danger of the Hero.

I wondered how many other tropes, books, settings and ideas I love have their roots here. I don't think for a second that this is the first desert planet, but it's one of the most notable. (The sandworms are amazing, of course.) Is this the first, or the first very popular, work that used as its setting an interstellar empire of humans? No alien civilizations, just humanity spreading out to cover the stars.

Suffice to say I was transported, reading this. It struck just the right balance for me between action and meditation, between fight scenes and vision quests. It's a lovely piece, and it deserves its many laurels.

5 Stars – An Awesome Book

Get Dune on Amazon.com

List of Hugo Winners


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