Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

11 March 2023
"Dune" is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert, which was first published in 1965. It tells the story of the struggle for control over the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, which is the only source of a valuable spice called "melange" in the galaxy.

The novel is set in a distant future, where powerful feudal families compete for resources and political power.

The book is widely regarded as a classic of science fiction literature and has inspired multiple adaptations, including a film, television series, and video games.

The story follows the young nobleman Paul Atreides, whose family is chosen by the Emperor to take over the mining of spice from the rival House Harkonnen.

However, the Harkonnens, with the help of the Emperor's troops, launch a surprise attack on the Atreides leading to the classic 'hero's journey' for Paul.

dune novel review

The novel thing about "Dune" also portrays the planet Arrakis as a character in its own right.

Herbert imbues the planet with a sense of otherness and mystery, evoking a sense of awe and wonder in the reader. The desert landscape is both beautiful and deadly, with vast sand dunes and treacherous sandstorms. The spice melange, which is only found on Arrakis, is a highly sought-after resource that has the power to extend human life and enhance mental abilities. The planet's harsh environment and valuable resources make it a highly contested territory, with various factions vying for control.

It's basically mining for gold in the sand but instead of sand, the spice (which must flow) is the greatest drug ever discovered.

bene gesserit sand worm dune concept idea

Freemen and Arrakis

Perhaps the most fascinating characters shaped by Arrakis are the Fremen, the native people of the planet. The Fremen have adapted to the harsh conditions of Arrakis in ways that make them formidable warriors and survivors. Their knowledge of the desert and its secrets is unparalleled, and they have developed a unique culture that is intimately tied to the ecology of the planet. For example, the Fremen wear stillsuits, which recycle their own bodily fluids so that they can survive in the arid climate. They also have a deep spiritual connection to the planet and its ecosystem, seeing themselves as guardians of the desert and its creatures.

The Fremen are not just interesting because of their unique culture, however. They are also essential to the plot of "Dune." Paul Atreides becomes involved with the Fremen and learns from them in his quest to take back control of Arrakis. The Fremen, in turn, see Paul as their messiah, the one who will lead them to a new era of prosperity and freedom.

The relationship between Paul and the Fremen becomes complex and fascinating, and it adds another layer to the rich worldbuilding of "Dune." Paul eventually leads them in a rebellion against the ruling regime.

Herbert's portrayal of the Fremen draws on a variety of cultural influences, including Bedouin and Tuareg nomads, as well as the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest. The Fremen's language, customs, and beliefs are described in great detail, creating a sense of depth and richness in their culture. The Fremen's way of life is in stark contrast to the opulent lifestyles of the ruling families, who live in lavish palaces and have access to advanced technology.

The Witches...

No science fiction novel about a sandy planet with giant worms is complete without a 'cult of witches', a cult who appear to have set the whole plot up itself:

The Bene Gesserit is a powerful organization of women in the world of Dune, who possess extensive training in physical and mental disciplines, as well as advanced knowledge of human biology and genetics. They are a secretive group and have been manipulating bloodlines for generations in an attempt to produce a superhuman being, who they refer to as the Kwisatz Haderach.

bene gesserit witch dune concept art

The Bene Gesserit are often portrayed as cold and calculating, with a reputation for manipulating events to suit their own interests. They are seen as both feared and respected by many of the other noble Houses, as their abilities and knowledge give them a significant advantage in politics and intrigue.

In the novel, the Bene Gesserit play a key role in shaping the events of the story, particularly in their manipulation of the Atreides bloodline. They are responsible for training Paul's mother, Jessica, in their ways, and for using her to produce a son who they believe could be the Kwisatz Haderach. However, their plans are disrupted by the chaos on Arrakis and Paul's unexpected emergence as a prophesied messiah figure among the Fremen.

Despite their manipulations, the Bene Gesserit are not immune to the political struggles of the universe, and their plans are frequently thwarted by the shifting alliances and power struggles of the various Houses. Nevertheless, their presence looms large over the novel, and their role in shaping the Atreides bloodline and the future of the universe is a key element of the story.

In conclusion, "Dune" is a novel that is beloved by many for good reason.
 Its rich soundscape, evocative setting, and fascinating characters combine to create a unique and immersive reading experience. The evoked sound of the sandworms, the planet Arrakis itself, and the Fremen people and Paul's physical and spiritual journey are just a few of the elements that make "Dune" such a memorable and enduring work of science fiction.

"Dune" has had a profound influence on science fiction literature and popular culture. Its imaginative world-building and complex characters have inspired numerous writers and filmmakers, and its themes of ecology, politics, and religion continue to resonate with readers today. The book's unique sound, its portrayal of planet Arrakis as a character, and its depiction of the Fremen all contribute to its enduring appeal. Whether you are a fan of science fiction or not, "Dune" is a novel that is well worth reading.

Check out the review of Dune 2021.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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