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Dune (S.F. Masterworks)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 9 February 2015
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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on 11 June 2018
Many mediocre sequels followed, but this first is a great piece of political sci-fi. Imagine the oil-producers were extraterrestrial cultures, producing not lubricants and fuels but a natural psychotropic which facilitated hyperspace navigation. Now imagine an Asimovian empire trying to rest control of the source. Imagine that there is a fanatic desert uprising seeking to regain that control, resisted not by the Husseini nor the Ibn Saud but by a royal gang which looks for all the world like the Hapsburgs. Throw in a heroic noble family, political intrigue, brilliant, West-Wing level smartwriting, and just for, the helluvit, a tribe of real witches and some giant snakes which patrol the =deserts by tunneling under the sands. Completely addictive read. A modern classic..
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on 28 March 2014
Complex, multi-layered and intense, this is not a book for everybody but for those who can invest the effort into truly reading this remarkable book it repays the effort and is far superior to most science fiction. This is not the sort of popcorn space opera or light beach reading, the plot is multi-layered with sub plots within sub plots. Whilst it is a very event laden story it is also primarily a human story which is driven by character development. Something that really lifts it above most sci-fi is the attention to detail and richness of the alternate world Herbert created, unlike most sci-fi which falls apart with even cursory consideration of elements of the story Herbert created a complete planetary eco-system with almost anal attention to detail along with an astonishing degree of back story development for the cultures, technology, histories and societies within the book. The appendices are almost worth reading in themselves as an encyclopedia of some future era. The result is that the story has a depth, consistency and plausibility (notwithstanding the fact it is sci-fi/fantasy) that very few other such books comes within a country thousand miles of. A lot of the societal development draws heavily on Islamic cultures (and who when the book was written could imagine how the word "jihad" would enter the global vocabulary?) and tradition along with European fuedal societies. The characterisation can become quite intimidating as there is a tendency to micro-analyse the most insignificant aspects of conversation and actions and I know many are turned off by this aspect of the story. The story is epic in scale with battles, treachery, political intrigue and quasi religeous fervour all tied together by what is at heart the very human story of Paul Atreides. Although the subject of a film and a TV mini-series (much closer to the book and better than the movie) it would be almost impossible to truly film the book and capture the scale and grandeur of the world created within the book. Maybe not for everybody but it remains not just one of the finest works of science fiction but one of the great works of fiction period in my opinion. Unfortunately Herbert's sequels failed completely to live up to the promise of this the first book but that does not detract from the genius of this masterpiece.
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on 9 August 2017
I am a huge science fiction fan but, oddly enough, I had never heard of Dune up to a couple of years ago. I came across it when I watched, quite by accident, the documentary film “Jodorowsky's Dune”, a 2013 American-French documentary film that explores film director’s Alejandro Jodorowsky's unsuccessful attempt to adapt and film Dune in the mid-1970s. I was intrigued. After just having finished reading it, I can see why some people consider it the greatest science fiction book ever written. Considering it was written in 1965, it is hard to fathom how Herbert came up with the pioneering scientific concepts, visual imagery and ecological and philosophical issues still very relevant today. And it is quite evident to me how Dune has influenced science fiction films in a monumental way. I recently read that the "Star Wars" films so owed a debt to "Dune" that Herbert enlisted a few sci-fi colleagues to, in jest, create a fake organization named the "We're Too Big to Sue George Lucas Society." I have no doubt that had I read it 20 years ago I would have been in awe. Reading it now, after watching Star Wars, Start Trek, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, its allure was a bit lost on me. Nevertheless, I did enjoy reading it and I am looking forward to Denis Villeneuve film series project.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 2 August 2015
I first read 'Dune' in the late 1970s by which time it was already well known, if not yet established as a classic. It is now fifty years since it was first published and it has stood the passage of time well.

I remember being enthralled by 'Dune' as a teenager, captivated by the descriptions of the bleak, desert planet and the hardy Fremen who inhabited it. Its scope (even within this first volume) is immense, resembling an old fashioned family saga.

There are, of course, some significant incongruities. Set some twenty thousand years in the future, there are no computers, and although mankind has spread across thousands of planets throughout the universe, technology seems oddly sparse. Imperial dictat was the reason for the lack of computers, though many of their functions are undertaken by specially trained humans, known as 'Mentats'. There are special technically accomplished weapons (known as 'lasguns'),and special shields have been designed that can counter their impact. Most people still rely on swords and knives, and poison seems to be the weapon of choice for Imperial assassination.

Duke Leto Atriedes is despatched under Imperial command to take over the governing of Arrakis, a desert planet also known as 'Dune'. This was previously the fiefdom of the Harkonnen family, sworn enemy of the Atriedes. Arrakis is bleak, with most of its surface covered by fierce desert which is patrolled by vicious monstrous worms. The indigenous population, known as the Fremen, have adapted to life with a minimum of surface water available to them, and wear special suits which capture and recycle their sweat. The importance of Arrakis lies in 'melange' a spice that is only found there, and which is treasured for its mind-bending powers. Indeed, melange forms part of a vital recipe used by the mysterious Space Guild who have learned to bend space to enable travel between planets.

Frank Herbert weaves an intricate web of Imperial politics and religious fanaticism, with odd throwbacks to classical Greece (the original Atriedes being Agamemnon and Menelaus, the sons of Atreus). The principal character is Paul Atriedes, son of Duke Leto and his concubine, Jessica. We learn that Jessica is a priestess of a mysterious sect known as the Bene Gesserit which has been monitoring ducal bloodlines. Prophecies abound, especially among the Fremen, of a messianic figure who will come to Dune to lead them. Jessica wonders whether her son might be the one.

A well-constructed novel that works on many levels. The absence of any lengthy, context-setting introduction actually helps the reader to become engaged. We are thrown right in, with the Atreides household preparing for their encounter with Arrakis, and all the mysteries it holds.
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on 21 July 2015
I first read this when it was published, and the ecological theme was very fresh.The story and the creation of a huge, detailed, future universe in his epic works are still astonishing feats of imagination and story telling. I still think it brilliant but rather lament the conservatism of Herbet's theme, set in a feudal universe. Despite this. a prescient book in many ways, perhaps explaining some aspects of Islamic thought with humanity and understanding that are very relevant today. Rereading this, I found the human relationships compelling and powerful as drivers for the story. If you love the best kind of sci fi, read these books. they are the stories of what happens to a prophet and his family on the richest and most challenging planet in a finely imagined galaxy,
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on 14 March 2014
I have, in my younger days, tried on a couple of occasions to read Dune, but never got past the first 10-20 pages, due to the odd nature of the opening of the book.
But, having finally decided to take the bull by the horns and make a real effort to read it, I have been very impressed.

Like one of the other all-time classics (Nineteen Eighty-Four), this book has a slow start that takes a number of pages to get through – even more so with this, as it takes quite a bit to get past the build-up to the action… but that adds to a nice level of suspense building to when the action kicks off – and, as with 1984, once you get into the action, the book becomes un-put-downable.

I have been a fan of fantasy books for a number of years, but have continually put off leap to the world of Sci Fi, as I have always been unsure of whether it would draw me in – which is strange, as I am a big fan of Star Trek/Wars, Fringe and the amazing Firefly.

But I must say that Dune serves well as gateway book.
While the book is considered a Sci Fi classic, the actual tale of the story is a lot closer to that of a fantasy book, and with some 90% of the story centred on the one planet, there are only the odd hints to the Sci-Fi trimmings.
Consider the book to be more other-worldly.

The story mainly centres around Paul Atreides and the turbulent few years that see him grow from a young boy into a man of legend. There is a brilliant level of both actual and internal conflict that ride through the book, and political intrigue and deceptions provide a lot of the turning points – and there will be times when you start to wonder what treacherous act will happen next.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wanted a book that would take them away to another world and keep them glued to well-paced action.
-and with the book due to reach the grand-old age of 50 next year, there are no indications that age had diminished the book at all.

There are some comparisons between this and Lord of The Rings, and that is understandable, and it is (at heart) a fantasy book – but I would stand out and say that it is a better book.
While I love LOTR, and appreciate the wonder of the story, the books are very heavy with unnecessary sequences where little happens, or padded out with long songs that don’t add a huge amount to the story.
Dune, however, is a lot tighter, and after a slow start that draws you into the world, there is a lot that happens – and no endless chapters of characters running.
Additionally, the (much) shorter songs and quotations that break-up the book into chapters add to the story, rather than jar with the running of the plot.

Overall:
This is a book that people consider to be a classic, and it truly lives up to that legend.
Recommended for most readers, I would particularly recommend it to people who like Peter V. Brett’s “Demon Cycle” series – as both books spend a good amount of time in creating an Easter-Style way of life that is something wonderful to behold.
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on 19 February 2017
If you like Science Fiction books. This one is the king. You wont regret this amazing and thrilling read.
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on 23 March 2015
Having never read Dune but being a big science fiction fan I chose to read Frank Herbert's masterwork more out of curiosity than anything else. What I found was a breathtaking tale of grand proportions full of suspense.
The characters are excellently depicted both through narrative and dialogue, the fantasy world is presented in such a way as to never intrude on the story despite the richness and depth within it.
Any fan of fantasy and science fiction owes it to themselves to read Dune. Any avid reader who may be less keen on the sci-fi genre probably should too as it's likely to change their opinion.
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on 24 May 2015
As other reviewers noted, there are a few 'typos'.
These books contain a wealth of knowledge, which reveals itself as I grow older.

The collection integrates into one huge book. The authors do a fine job.

I read my first dune book as a teenager. This time I am 46. I ought to read it more often. The books contain a wealth of wisdom and some keys to the locks of understanding. For those who don't detect the depths, don't worry, the stories are engaging emotionally and are enthralling.

Life is to be experienced. This book is full of life and experience. Its cost is negligible relative to its value.

Please read it with care and look about your world with new eyes. Then question everything those in power would have you believe. You form the base of their power and you can reclaim your power at will.
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