1965 – “Dune” by Frank Herbert

I first read Dune by Frank Herbert when I was a teenager. It is another of the books I read from my father’s shelves – he had an interest in science fiction. I remember having read some of the sequels as well, although there are more of them now than there were then as another writer has taken over since Herbert’s death. I have no recollection of having read Dune since that time which means that it is now over forty years ago and it is probably time for a reread.

Somehow I had got it into my head that Dune is a complicated story and a difficult book. It’s certainly not a short book but it is actually very straightforward. I am pretty sure that most modern writers would make much more of the story told here and add complications but I enjoyed it very much as it is and will probably seek out and read a few of the original sequels. I was also surprised to discover that I remembered one or two passages from my first reading so it must have made quite an impression on me at the time. There have now been two films made of this book – I have seen neither.

The story’s main character is Paul Atreides who is a teenager at the start and grows to a man during the course of the action. Paul’s father, the Duke, has been given control of the planet and its lucrative production of “spice”, which helps to enable inter-space travel, by the Emperor and the family which previously had control, the Harkannons, have had to vacate their home. This is a trick by the Emperor and the family know it but are unable to prevent a betrayal from within and the possible loss of everything they have. The Duke’s concubine, Paul’s mother, is part of a secret society of women who influence marriages and reproduction in the great families. She is convinced that Paul is special and has powers to foresee and understand what will happen.

The drama plays out against the background of this sandy planet with virtually no water. The author creates this magnificently. The newcomers must understand the need to conserve water and the traditions which have grown up around this necessity. Paul and his mother take refuge with these Fremen and Paul learns to use his foresight to shape events to benefit his family and the planet as a whole. And there are giant worms which eat people !

I really enjoyed this story and found that the book was easy to read and follow. There is certainly lots of action and plenty of ideas contained within the story which makes it satisfying to read and leaves you wanting more, which is always good. There have been a lot of stories published about a “chosen one” (thinking of Star Wars and the Wheel of Time series particularly which seem very similar to this book) but this is well enough done that it doesn’t matter – and it was written earlier than most of the examples I could come up with.

A good, well-structured and enjoyable story with excellent world-building. I enjoyed it a lot and am pleased that I read it.

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