Dune. Forget the movie and the mini-series, just read the book. It’s an epic sf read of Shakespearean proportions and delves into every crevice of life. Grander than Game of Thrones, more sweeping than Star Wars, as fundamental as a religious text Dune has the power to enthral, and that’s just what it did to me when I was young and picked up this battered 1970s edition on a can-kicking Saturday at my local SF store.
Although Herbert’s masterpiece is dressed as an SF space opera, it revels in the diversity of humankind: think War and Peace without the shadow of the Russian revolution. It takes the machinations of the Atriedes dynasty and their conflict with their Harkonnen rivals, with its echoes of the Plantagenets vs the Tudors in Medieval Europe, and mixes in a strong dose of cosmic drug trafficking reminiscent of the insidious Opium trade in the China in the late 1800s. Then Herbert turns it into a saga of prophecy, mysticism and Fate, with all the battles and adventures you’d need to keep the reader turning the page. Oh, and throw in some loss, grief, hope and love!
The main protagonist Paul Atriedes is a spoilt child to some, a solider to others, a prophet, a friend, a scheming opponent, a strategist, he’s a human laid bare in a mirror ball of relationships. I’ve read this, and the other books in the canon three times now, at different ages, and still find new insights into Atriedes’ preogression from outcast, to prophet, then ruler. And there are so many other threads: his duplicitous mother, her treachery of the Reverend Mothers, the Spice (essential for interplanetary travel, and a powerful hallucinogen), the blue eyes, the tribes, and, above all, the mighty, roving sand-worms.
So Dune has it’s flaws (the best women are the bad ones, the love interest is mainly a naked plot device) and it’s longer than is sane, but oh what a book, it still gives me goosebumps. In the top ten of course, higher I’m sure once this is all over.
- Top 100 SF & F Books. Stranger in a Strange Land.
- Top 100 SF & F Books. The Rebel Worlds (Poul Anderson)
- Top 100 SF & F Books. The Subtle Knife.
- Clark Ashton Smith: Master of Gothic, Pulp and SF classics
- H.P. Lovecraft created some incredible monsters in space and time.
Front cover photograph by Elise Wells, 2016