Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib.
Dune is set in a futuristic technologically advanced world which after the Butlerian Jihad (the bloody war between Man and Machines) has eliminated all computers and passed a decree declaring “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind”. Since there are no computers, the essential working of the galaxy is still medieval and feudal with heavy reliance on men and their dallying around. Lots of thriller potential right there. Men with superhuman analytical abilities called Mentats have taken the place of Computers.
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On the other hand, we have the Bene Gesserit, an ancient school of mental and physical training for female students (it gives them superhuman intuitive powers) who follow a selective breeding program which makes them feared and mistrusted through the Imperium. Their desired end product of this breeding program is the Kwisatz Haderach, a superman who’ll be able to glimpse into the future. How he’ll be able to do this is rooted in Herbert’s idea of determinism: given that one can observe everything and analyze everything, one can effectively glimpse the future in probabilistic terms. Quantum physics anyone? The Kwisatz Haderach is the proposed solution to the male-female dichotomy, between the analytical and intuitive.
“Since there are no computers, the essential working of the galaxy is still medieval and feudal, with heavy reliance on men and their dallying around”The Book Guide® Editor
The plot of Dune is almost wholly set on the desert planet of Arrakis (also referred to as Dune), an arid wasteland where water is so scarce that men have to wear stillsuits which recycle human moisture for further consumption. The source of the galaxy’s interest in the planet is Melange, a spice that bestows upon one longevity and prescient powers. Everything on the planet is permeated with spice, the air, the sand, the food.
Everybody on the planet is hopelessly addicted to the spice, their only hope for survival being their continued intake of the spice. The Spacing Guild, the economic and trading monopolistic arm of the Galaxy badly needs the spice for interstellar transport. This is because their frigates travel faster than the speed of light and hence travel backward in time. The spice is the only way they can look into the future and see their way ahead. How cool is that! All the powers on the Galaxy are out to mine the spice, braving the sandworms, their name merely a euphemism, for they are gigantic 200 meter long creatures which always come digging through the sand whenever spice mining is undertaken. Always. There’s also another little glitch. The kickass native desert tribal Fremen exists on the planet, whom the foreign powers look down on with suspicion and disdain. The Fremen ethos is one of survival and scarcity, driven by tribalism and egalitarianism. Okay, I’ll stop right there. No more spoilers about this. Except that they value water to the extent that spitting on a person is the highest honor they can bestow upon him.
“Our protagonists are the Atreides family, consisting of the Duke, his Bene Gesserit concubine Jessica and their son Paul, who have been entrusted the stewardship of Arrakis.”The Book Guide® Editor
We discover the alien planet of Arrakis along with them, firstly with fear, suspicion, and wonder and ultimately, love and respect. Paul Muad’Dib, however, is no ordinary prince. There’s a teeny weeny chance he might be the Kwisatz Haderach, something which troubles him constantly and gives us our conflicted hero. The poor chap trips balls over the spice and has visions of black hordes pillaging and murdering around town bearing his flag and sees his dead body multiple times.
It is a reading experience that will leave you dreaming of the grave emptiness of Arrakis and make you wish you were there to brave it all in the privileged company of the noble Fremen.
Frank Herbert achieves the pinnacle of what a sci-fi author aspires to rise to; authentic world building.
Dune (2007) By Frank HerbertDune (2007) By: Glennon Doyle
by The Book Guide® Editors4.7/5 Very good