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4.4 out of 5 stars443
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 8 February 2001
I know some people who hate the movie and will not touch this book. I know a few who own and love the movie but have never read the book. I have lent DUNE to friends who could get no further than page 20 because it was too "out there" or too difficult, with its array of characters and glossary of made-up terms. But of all the people who have gotten past page 20- I don't know one who doesn't praise it among their absolute favorites. I am no exception.
I love sci-fi but don't read much of it because I prefer fantasy. DUNE feels like a perfect blend of the two. A war of noble houses set in space. Paul Atreides is heir to the duchy- and to say that he is well trained for the job would be an understatement. His father, Duke Leto, is given charge of Arrakis- a hellish desert-world and the sole source of "the spice" which the entire universe needs. A very prestigious assignment, but treachery and peril comes with it. Paul finds himself thrown into the mystery of Dune and its fierce natives, the Fremen. Is he the savior their prophecy speaks of?
I was first blown away by DUNE at the age of 16, and have since considered it "the one to beat". In 8 years, very few books have made me question that judgment: Game of Thrones, Foundation, Lord of the Rings, Ender's Game. I had to reread it to be sure I wasn't just naïve at the time. Was it really THAT great? Absolutely.
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on 22 December 2002
Dune.
Even the name commands power, tells the reader that this is novel is something special...
The book details the story of one Paul Atreides, the son of a highly respected Duke in the far future society of the Landsraad and Padishar Empire, as he is caught betwixt the feud of his own noble house and that of their rivals, the Harkonnen. And yet, this is just the tip of iceberg as his family collapses around him, he comes to realise that the destiny he was bred for is much more sinister...
Words cannot do justice to the greatness of this book: there is just so much going on within its pages. The universe is just so elegantly realised, the story, just so epic in scope and the attention to detail of the ecology of the alien world, Arrakis...
What we end up with is a complex tale of politics, intrigue and warning: an over-reliance is the same as crippling oneself. From man's over-reliance of machinery to water and to the most important substance in the universe, the geriatric spice melange.
Dune is by far and away my favourite novel. The universe, the story, the ideas scattered throughout the prose...almost everything about it is just the pinnacle of literature. The only bad point is Frank Herbert's characterisation doesn't fully mature as a writer until the last two books in the sequence.
This book is sci-fi at its best but don't let the 'pigeon-hole' of sci-fi put you off: at the heart of this novel is an extraordinary tale which could take place in any environment.
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on 7 February 2006
Epic in scale. Epic in vision. Epic in ideas. Dune’s place as the greatest science fiction novel of all time can be attributed to these three phases. Whilst the other contenders that are frequently thrown around as the best ever (such as The Demolished Man, Ender’s Game, Foundation, 1984, The Forever War, etc.), Dune surpasses them in all aspects from writing style, story and, most overlooked in the genre, depth of character.
What really sets this apart from other books is its length. Whilst this has never ensured consistent quality (quite the opposite in many cases), Herbert has filled the 600-odd pages with superb prose that never wanders, never sags and always is delightful to read. The story is told from multiple points of view (often changes occur within a paragraph), so we learn effectively about the characters but we are never confused by this style. Every thought is recorded for our digestion which means the characters of Dune are wonderfully complex, each with their own nuances and failings. However I don’t imply that the book is full of dense, terse, symbolic writing that would make English graduates salivate. Rather the plot moves along with a large amount of dialogue and the subtle action sequences ensure even the most impatient reader is never bored.
The story revolves around Paul Atreides of the House Atreides. In a galaxy far away and far into the future, Dune features no aliens and few of the usual SF trappings. This is essentially a character-driven story so a hard SF fan may not enjoy it to the extent that I (and others) have. As we follow Paul and his family relocate themselves to the planet Arrakis/Dune as new rulers, much of the first act is concerned with the ducal court that surrounds Paul. At this point it could easily be classed as a fantasy novel because of the abundance of swords and of the royal hierarchy, ritual and betrayal. But it is definitely grounded in science fiction with its limited use of force fields, flying vehicles and highly-conditioned individuals that can perform extreme logical computations.
The most enjoyable part of the book for me was when the natives of Arrakis/Dune (the Fremen) ride the massive sand worms. Where Herbert got the idea for them I don’t know but they take the book to such a higher level that any comparison with Lawrence of Arabia seems redundant and misguided. One definitely thinks of T.E. Lawrence throughout the book with the galactic Emperor being the Ottoman Sultan, the spice melange being oil and the CHOAM corporation being OPEC etc. But after a while Paul’s ascent to greatness is unique and distinctive and is genuinely inventive.
I have not read the other 5 or so sequels, let alone the prequels written by Brian Herbert and have no intention to do so. For me, Dune is a standalone novel that needs no further explanation with other pieces of literature (save the fantastic glossary included, which clarifies everything you need to know). Very few books deserve a five star rating. This is one of them.
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on 10 September 2011
I've read this book multiple times in the past and so won't comment on just how good the story is.

The low mark reflects problems with formatting on the Kindle version. Repeatedly, almost once per page, I find instances where quotation marks are missing. Speech starts from characters and I find myself not realising that the story has transitioned from description to speech, meaning I end up going back a sentence to get the full context.

Hopefully Amazon will get the publishers to update the Kindle version with corrected formatting.

In conclusion: great real book, not a great electronic book.
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on 8 February 2001
I know some people who hate the movie and will not touch this book. I know a few who own and love the movie but have never read the book. I have lent DUNE to friends who could get no further than page 20 because it was too "out there" or too difficult, with its array of characters and glossary of made-up terms. But of all the people who have gotten past page 20- I don't know one who doesn't praise it among their absolute favorites. I am no exception.
I love sci-fi but don't read much of it because I prefer fantasy. DUNE feels like a perfect blend of the two. A war of noble houses set in space. Paul Atreides is heir to the duchy- and to say that he is well trained for the job would be an understatement. His father, Duke Leto, is given charge of Arrakis- a hellish desert-world and the sole source of "the spice" which the entire universe needs. A very prestigious assignment, but treachery and peril comes with it. Paul finds himself thrown into the mystery of Dune and its fierce natives, the Fremen. Is he the savior their prophecy speaks of?
I was first blown away by DUNE at the age of 16, and have since considered it "the one to beat". In 8 years, very few books have made me question that judgment: Game of Thrones, Foundation, Lord of the Rings, Ender's Game. I had to reread it to be sure I wasn't just naïve at the time. Was it really THAT great? Absolutely.
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on 24 October 2011
This book is as wonderful as ever, and for the most part the kindle version is great. It has quite a lot of typos in, though, many of which read like OCR errors - Yueh written Yuen, for example, and quite a few instances of missing opening quote marks.
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on 11 May 2009
Frank Herberts "Dune" is, for me, one of the most intelligently written pieces of literature I have ever read. I think the people that write negative reviews about this book have not concentrated fully whilst reading the text. He has an abstract way of describing events, which sometimes demands that one gives 100% concentration to what's being written. Otherwise, I can see how his work can be described as boring and long-winded. However, THIS IS NOT A DAN BROWN NOVEL. It is not an easy fix. My favourite thing about his writing is his ability to explain, clearly and easily, how people interact. How they feel, think and talk. He takes basic communication and makes it interesting, bringing you into the mind of the given character, and allowing you to love him, as if it was you speaking. The plot is at first a rather strange one. But upon reading a few of the squeals one sees the magnitude of the universe that frank has created. Honestly said, I was not blown away by the first book, but I was naive. I didn't give it the attention it deserved. Upon reading Dune Messiah I realised what I was in for in the forthcoming sequels. Now, I'm addicted. And there's no going back. Oh dear, what have I done?
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on 15 November 2001
Just an astonishing work of Fiction, easily the finest series of books I have ever read, and all kicked-off by the cream of the crop, Dune!
Enough people have summarised the content and general themes and I have no argument with any of them. This book is a must read! That said..........
Beware of some of the content. I read the book at 27, and consider myself an intellectual chap, but some parts of the book were clearly intended for beings higher than myself.
Mr Herbert enjoyed confusing his audience from time to time. Some of his talk of genetics, especially given the current GM climate, is simply decades before its time, but some of his other passages, especially surrounding prescience, can be a bit esoteric to say the least.
Having said all that, just an immaculate book. I couldn't put it down (even when my head hurt!) and am now on book 5. For me, book 2 is more enjoyable, but far less startling and challenging than the original. I have never seen the film, and I'm in no hurry to do so. How could anyone ever do the book justice??
Prepare for the ride of your life (but take some Ibuprofen with you.. ;))
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on 27 March 2013
I'm not going to lie, I found Dune hard going; at times it was the literary equivalent of wading through desert sand. That's not to say it is not an enjoyable and rewarding read, but rather that it does require an element of concentration and persistence on the behalf of the reader. It's a catch twenty-two though, because many of the elements that make it a more complicated read also add to the richness and texture of the book, its characters, and the setting. It is also these elements that draw you so completely into the alternate world of Arrakis that you begin to understand how this book is viewed as a classic of (not just sci-fi) literature.

Dune is built on a grandiose scale, one of interstellar travel, imperial emperors and apocalyptic reckoning. It is one of few books I know of that not only boasts a glossary of terms, but also essays on the ecology and religion of the subject [planet]. It also requires the digesting of a myriad of `made up' terminology, and the buying-into of some metaphysical shenanigans. In amongst all this there is always a danger that everything can become so detached from our reality that the story lacks a familiar grounding and is diluted by consequence. However, it is through the central characters, namely Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica, that the story is really held together as a tale of personal attrition, retribution, and discovery.

I cannot believe it has taken me so long to get around to reading this, I will certainly be reading Dune Messiah now.
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Duke Leto Atreides has been ordered by the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV, to give up his comfortable home planet of Caladan and take over the administration of the almost barren planet Arrakis, whose vast sandy deserts give it its other name - Dune. Harsh though the environment of Dune may be, it is the only planet in the Empire which can produce melange, the spice drug, which extends the life of those who use it. The financial rewards of controlling Dune are immense, so the previous rulers, the Harkonnens, don't intend to give up their claim, and it appears the Emperor may be secretly supporting the Harkonnens in their campaign to destroy Duke Leto. But Duke Leto has a son, Paul, the offspring of Duke Leto's concubine, Lady Jessica of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. Paul is the result of generations of selective breeding, carefully controlled by the Bene Gesserit to produce the Kwizatz Haderach, a male Bene Gesserit with unprecedented mental powers, including the ability to see possible futures. And the spice drug melange is a crucial part of the process of bringing those powers to their full potential...

Written in 1965, Dune was the first real fantasy saga set on other worlds, and has remained in the fantasy/sci-fi bestseller lists ever since. It's often compared to the Lord of the Rings for the completeness of its world-building, but the tone of it is much more ambiguous - the dividing lines between good and evil aren't quite so clearly drawn. It's a grappling for power and control, set in a society that has aspects of the mediaeval - lordly families wielding ultimate power over their peoples, where marriages are made for political advantage rather than love, and where torture and death are accepted as the norm.

The ecological themes in Dune reflect the beginnings of the anxieties over our own earth environment, which was just starting to become a matter of public concern in the '60s. The importance of water on this desert planet is brilliantly portrayed, as Herbert shows how its scarcity has led to it becoming part of the mythology and even religion of the planet's inhabitants. Everything revolves round water and customs reflect that - from water being the major currency to the ritual recovery of water from the bodies of the dead. The Fremen inhabitants of the planet are trying to make their planet more habitable by careful use and cultivation of what they already have, but Herbert, who had an interest in ecology in his real life, shows how changing one aspect of an environment must be carefully controlled to prevent the destruction of others.

Much of the language of Dune is based on real-life Arabic languages - there is much talk of jihad, for example, and many of the names are Arabic in origin. I suspect this, combined with the desert landscape, might make the modern reader read things into the story that probably weren't intended and certainly weren't obvious to this reader when I first read the book sometime in the '70s or '80s. Our familiarity with the Middle East is so much greater now than it was then. However it's fun to draw comparisons between spice and oil, and to see the struggle between the Fremen and their imperial overlords as a reflection of the wars of the last few decades. But in truth, the reader can only go so far down this route before the comparison begins to fall apart.

The place of women in the Dune universe is not exactly a feminist's delight, and seems pretty backwards looking even for the '60s. Primarily breeding machines, even the Bene Gesserit wield their power through marriage and concubinage (yes, concubines!) and it's a bit sad that their most urgent desire is to create a male, and therefore superior, Bene Gesserit. Often called witches by the men, and mistresses of the wierding ways, the Bene Gesserit nevertheless are feared and sometimes respected, so women do play an important, if not exactly heroic, role in the stories. And despite their inferior position in society, Herbert has created some memorable female characters, not least the Lady Jessica herself who gradually develops into something much more complex than simply the mother of the Kwizatz Haderach.

Have I made this book sound impossibly boring? I hope not, because after a fairly slow start when the characters and worlds are introduced, there's plenty of action. Treachery, intrigue, poisonings and battles, a little bit of romance, but not too much, the truly nasty Baron Harkonnen and his evil henchmen, and most of all Paul-Muad'dib and the heroic Fremen all make for a great adventure story. And the giant worms, the makers, are one of the all-time great creations of fantasy. Their role in the ecology of the planet and the way they are viewed by the Fremen, as something to be worshipped, feared and yet used, makes them central to the book. They are a force of nature that man, with all his technology, can't defeat - indeed, mustn't defeat, because without the worms Dune would lose the thing that gives it is unique importance. And they are terrifying in their destructive power, made worse somehow by the fact that they are driven by no intelligent purpose.

There are several sequels to Dune, and while this one doesn't quite end on a cliffhanger, the reader is left knowing there is much more to come. From memory the first couple of sequels are excellent, after which the series began to lose its edge somewhat - for me, at least. But I'm looking forward to re-reading the next one, Dune Messiah, in the not-too-distant future, and meantime would highly recommend Dune not just as an excellent read in itself, but as the book that has inspired so many of the later fantasy writers.
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