Book Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

Duke Leto of the House Atreides is given the contract to mine the all-precious spice melange from the sands of the harsh desert world Arrakis. His wife Jessica and son Paul leave the watery world of Caladan for their new home. The previous operation had been run by their mortal enemies, House Harkonnen and they arrive on a planet whose people suffered at their brutal hand. Melange is the most important substance to the empire and without it, space travel would not be possible.

When the Atreides are betrayed and attacked by the Harkonnen, Paul and his mother must take sanctuary with the indigenous population – the Fremen – and learn their ways in order to create an army and fulfil the prophecy of the Mahdi. Finally they discover the truth about the conspiracy that led to the fall of House Atreides and the roll of the church and the Emperor himself.

For me, no other book matches the sheer scope of imagination that Frank Herbert invested in his best known work. We can only begin to imagine the effort required to painstakingly create such a complex society and integrate it seamlessly to create one of the finest genre novels ever written. The characters are rich and realistic, the plot has so many layers and the political and religious intrigue and one of the most comprehensive back stories ever that Frank Herbert’s son was able to write six prequels, makes Dune one of the ‘must read’ novels for the scifi fan.

So far, Dune has been adapted for the screen twice. In the 1980s, David Lynch created an adaptation that was visually amazing but lacking the substance of the novel. About ten years ago, a small screen adaptation despite having a minuscule budget, managed to do what Lynch could not… but the lack of budget was obvious and the desert backdrops were clearly matt paintings because you could see where they were joined.

The first two sequels (Dune Messiah and Children of Dune) were later adapted to TV. With a much higher budget, well adapted script and superb acting (a first major acting role for James McAvoy as Leto II), I highly recommend it.

5/5

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