Thoughts on Dune by Frank Herbert

In my life, I think I have only read a couple dozen science-fiction novels. I look back at my science-fiction categories here on the blog and notice that, in retrospect, I’m not sure I’d even still label some of them as sci-fi at all! So, let’s say I can count my experience with this genre on my two little hands. What made me pick up the likes of Dune, then, you ask? What a great question!
The truth is: Timothée Chalamet.

Look, I’m a little obsessed with him. He’s a stellar actor who picks amazing projects. Lady Bird. Beautiful Boy. Little Women. The King. And of course, Call Me By Your Name. I won’t hide my heart-filled eyes or deny that the reason I finally picked up Herbert’s Dune, after allowing it to sit for decades on my TBR shelf, is because the film was supposed to release this winter, and Chalamet is cast as the hero, Paul Atreides–the Muad’Dib. After seeing the first trailer, I rushed to my bookshelf and got to work, and what a great decision!

For anyone as woefully out of the loop as I was, Frank Herbert’s Dune is considered to be one of the canonical works of the science-fiction genre, if not its bible. In many ways, it reminds me of what Lord of the Rings did for the fantasy genre. Herbert creates an entire world, well, multiple worlds, with its own languages, cultures, geographies, politics, histories, and all the rest. While it does not go into as much detail or description as the Tolkien books do (who could!?), it nevertheless successfully immerses its readers in an entirely different and yet relatable story, a kind of alternate and futuristic timeline that has as its ancient roots the planet earth and Christianity.

It is great fun to see how these evolved earthlings plus other humanoid species are imagined singularly and in cooperation with one another. The classic palace intrigues, the intricate politics, the subtle espionage. Nothing that one would expect from the study of a race and time, a history of a people, is missing. It just so happens that this history is from the future. A boy foretold, much like Jesus Christ, is born and comes of age on a dry and desolate planet. That boy, Paul, becomes the political leader Muad’Dib and the spiritual force Kwisatz Haderach. He is the one who will bring order to the system, who will end a corrupt reign and liberate a people.

If the pure fun of the tale isn’t enough, Dune is also littered sublimely with philosophical wisdom on the self, the environment, and the spirit.

“Fear is the mind killer,” Herbert writes, and he couldn’t be more right. The film has sadly been postponed, but I can’t wait to see it.

17 Comments on “Thoughts on Dune by Frank Herbert

  1. I read Dune at an impressionable age (14?) and loved even the ridiculousness of the first movie, with Kyle Maclachlan and Sting in a diaper, so I’m also waiting anxiously for the new movie to stream.

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    • Sting in a diaper? Lol The only thing that irked me was the tired old trope about the villain being a particular kind of predator. I’m sick of it. But otherwise, yeah, I really enjoyed it.

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  2. I loved Dune. It was probably the first sci-fi series I read, and it just blew away my mind. I can’t say I’m that excited for the movie. It seems to me rather difficult to film, but let’s see, I”ll watch it with an open mind.

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  3. Great review, and it makes me want to go ahead and read it too! I saw that a movie was coming and regretted that I hadn’t read it yet. Now,maybe I’ll have time.
    I’m not a sci-fi fan at all, but I’m willing to read the best of the genre.

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    • It’s great world building and very interesting narrative about race, religion & mythology, and politics, with bits of the sci-fi/supernatural. I thought certain parts went by a bit too fast, but overall, I found it pretty engaging and thought-provoking.

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  4. Dune is good stuff! I haven’t read the other books in the series, but I hear they go downhill in quality. That said, maybe you should repair this massive gap in your reading by getting a few more classics of SF under your belt! That might be fun… 🙂

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    • I’m sorry to hear the series doesn’t hold up! Who knows how long it would take for me to get to them, though? Ha! Any classic sci-fi recs? I’ve read some, like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Never read any Lovecraft & not sure I want to, considering. I don’t think I’ve read any Asimov, either, which is a shame considering my alma mater had an extensive Asimov collection in their special collections library.

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      • I loved Dune when I read it in the 80s (and not only is Sting in the earlier movie, but so is Sir Patrick Stewart!). And, yes, the rest of the series goes downhill fast. I quit reading after the fourth (God-Emperor of Dune) and that one was quite a slog as I recall. The Asimov robot stories are excellent (The Caves of Steel, Naked Sun, Robots of Dawn) as are most of his short stories. Lots of folks sing the praises of the Foundation series as well–but I found it difficult to get into. If you can find Arthur C. Clarke’s short story collections (The Nine Billion Names of God AND Tales from the White Hart), those are also excellent. I also love James Tiptree Jr (Alice Bradley Sheldon)–her Brightness Falls from the Air is an especial favorite. For more recent SF: Octavia E. Butler is fantastic (especially the Xenogenesis series).

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      • Hm, let’s see. I’m not a huge Asimov fan, but some of his stuff is fun. Asimov was terrible at people, especially women (oh my gosh, so bad). He was more into working out the tech ideas. So I, Robot and some of his other famous short stories is what I’d say. Ray Bradbury, now…that man could write. I suppose you’ve read Fahrenheit 451, but he had lots of wonderful short stories too, and he’s great for Halloween reading. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001 and Childhood’s End, both very famous. I really like Clifford Simak and would say Way Station and/or They Walked Like Men. I believe you’ve read some Ursula K. LeGuin, right? Leigh Brackett wrote a lot (including most of Empire Strikes Back), mostly adventure novels. As far as I can tell, James Tiptree Jr. (who was a lady) wrote great stuff but I haven’t been able to get most of it yet. Oh! And Alfred Bester wrote a couple of foundational books — The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination (which is a riff on the Count of Monte Cristo).

        There were so many short stories that you could get a taste of quite a lot of writers pretty quickly. Bradbury’s “The Veldt” is a classic: http://www.veddma.com/veddma/Veldt.htm

        And yes, a very skinny Sting in a very uncomfortable-looking metal diaper. LOL

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  5. I tried reading Dune in high school and just couldn’t get through it. I’ve been meaning to go back to it for years now, and in fact bought it in paperback earlier this year because of the upcoming new movie (but more because of the director than any one member of the cast (and yes, this is me admitting I’ve yet to see a single movie with Timothee Chalamet — not because I have anything against him so much as I just haven’t been watching a lot of movies, as my end-of-year-tallies on my blog with show). I really need to get around to reading it before the movie comes out, and your review definitely strengthens that resolve.

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  6. I read Dune in high school because a friends was a devotee and I absolutely hated it. I never thought I would be tempted to read it again but your review is making me reconsider. Maybe a lot of it just went too much over my head.

    I read my first Asimov this year — Foundation — and was seriously underwhelmed. I hear he has better books, so I might try again, but that one was a dud.

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  7. It’s a classic I’d love to read. I think I may have tried to watch the film once ?…. Not sure. I must have seen the passages with Sting ^^

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  8. I will follow Timothee Chalamet ALWAYS. I have considered picking up Dune because of his upcoming appearance. I just might do it. Nice review1

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