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.