Recommended Reading: Frank Herbert’s Dune

Over a month ago now, I was nominated for a Liebster award by awesome fellow blogger Ann W. Shannon (please check out her blog… it’s pretty awesome, especially if you’re a writer). Unfortunately I was mired in a research project at the time, and I never got around to accepting the award.

But Ann said she would still be interested in getting a book recommendation from me. Specifically, she asked “What is your favorite book? Why should I read it?” With that in mind, I’ve decided to launch a new semi-regular series called Recommended Reading, and today I’d like to recommend my #1 favorite book: Dune by Frank Herbert.

Okay, I realize not everyone will love Dune as much as I do. The book happened to connect with me for personal reasons. It gave me something I needed in my life at the moment when I needed it most. I have no idea if it will have a similar effect on other readers; I can only say this is the kind of book that’s capable of changing a person’s life and reshaping a person’s worldview.

The story is set in a world of medieval feudalism, except this is feudalism in space, with counts and dukes and barons ruling over entire planets rather than tiny parcels of land, and the “Emperor of the Known Universe” ruling over all. One of the noble families, House Atreides, is given control of an economically valuable planet by the Emperor, but this gift turns out to be a trap, part of a vast conspiracy to destroy the Atreides family for good.

Usually in science fiction, it seems you can either have good fiction or good science. In other words, you can either entertain your readers with a fun story or educate your readers about some interesting scientific concept. There are audiences for both of those things, but Dune is a rare example of how to do good science and good fiction at the same time.

Frank Herbert apparently did a ton of research on ecology and environmental science then used that knowledge to craft a beautiful and frightening alien world—the perfect stage for a deeply human drama. If you’re a writer—even if you’re not a science fiction writer—there’s a valuable lesson here about how to seamlessly incorporate research into a story.

Now some of you may have read Dune before. If so, I’d encourage you to read it again. I’ve read it five or six times now, and each time I get something different out of it. Dune is a classic revenge story, akin to The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s also a story about the temptation of power, similar in a way to The Lord of the Rings. It explores themes of political corruption, religious fanaticism (with distinctly Islamic flavoring), wars caused by resource scarcity, and a global climate in a state of change. You’d think this was an allegory of the many conflicts we face here in the 21st Century, except it was written over fifty years ago.

In fact, Dune feels so relevant to our modern world sometimes that you might say Frank Herbert was “prescient.” That’s a clever Dune reference, but you’ll have to read the book to get the joke.

15 Responses to Recommended Reading: Frank Herbert’s Dune

  1. Very good book. The movies never got the plot right. The best movie was the 1984 extended cut because frank herbert was a consultant on the 1984 movie so it had his imagination fueling the concept of the movie. A shame they never got the plot right with it though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      With that extended cut, I felt like I could see what they were trying to do. Parts of it felt so authentic to the book. That could’ve been such a great movie, if only David Lynch had been allowed to finish it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. Since Frank Herbert originally was a consultant for the 1984 movie, it was the closest to the authentic feeling of the book. I was hoping that when SCI-FI decided to remake it that they would closely follow the story AND keep the style of the original movie. Alas, not only did they decide to make it different, they butchered the bloodlines plot in the first book as well as the seitch name/public name. At least they managed to keep the Chani, daughter of kynes/liet, and at least introduced the mahdi/moad’dib conventions. Still, having the actress of irulan narate the original movie was the closest to the chapter breaks you get in the books. Maybe someday, someone will remake it right?

        Sorry it took so long for the reply, work got busy this week

        Liked by 1 person

      • J.S. Pailly says:

        I think Dune is due for a remake. Every once in a while, I see an article saying such-and-such director is trying to make it happen. One of these days, it’ll happen.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lee says:

        I agree. It’s a fantastic story, but needs more than one movie to do it justice. I hope for two things: I’ll be alive when it happens, and someone besides Peter Jackson will direct it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Scott Levine says:

    I’ve never gotten around to reading Dune, but loads of my friends love it. I really should try it some time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      It’s definitely worth giving a try. Also this might be of interest to you: all of the major planets in the story are identified as orbiting real stars. It might be fun trying to find them in the sky.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read Dune as a teenager. I’m sure I didn’t get as much out of it then as I would now. A year or two ago, I reread the opening chapters (for a reason I can’t now remember) and was struck by how much stronger it resonated with me. I might have to make time to reread the whole book. (I can’t imagine rereading the sequels though. I kept reading them hoping to recapture the experience of the first book, and finally gave up after ‘God Emperor of Dune’.)

    But when people ask me for science fiction’s version of ‘Lord of the Rings’, I send them to Dune.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve Morris says:

    I’ve read Dune many times and re-read the entire series last year. It’s a superbly crafted book on so many levels, although it also contains glaring faults and limitations. I would say it was my favourite book of all time, despite the faults!

    Like

  5. debscarey says:

    OK, you got me. The first hook was your “for personal reasons” link and then you closed the deal by talking about all the research he did. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to fit such a *huge* book in, but it sounds like I must try …

    Liked by 2 people

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