Book Name: Dune
Author: Frank Herbert
First Published: 1965
Frank Herbert began researching and writing Dune in 1959. The idea for the novel originated from a magazine article he was writing on sand dunes in the Oregon Dunes near Florence, Oregon. He became involved in the ecological information about the dunes and how these sand structures influenced the animals and the town of people nearby and he ended up with far more raw material than was needed for an article. Instead of finishing and submitting the magazine article, the data and idea of the shifting sand ecologically became the seed for his novel Dune. It was the first ecological science fiction novel, embracing a plethora of sweeping, inter-related themes and multiple character viewpoints, a style of writing that ran through all Herbert’s novels
I will attempt to summarize the plot of Dune, but it is such a complex story that it is impossible to touch on all the concepts, the rich characters and the intrigue of this story.
Emperor Shaddam, head of House Corrino, has come to fear House Atreides due to the growing popularity of Duke Leto Atreides within the ruling Houses of the universe. Not wishing to do an overt attack since it would lead to a civil war, never the less, Shaddam decides to destroy House Atreides. He employs House Harkonnen and its Baron Vladimir who has been feuding with Atreides for centuries to trap and destroy his target. In order to remove Atreides from their home planet of Caladan where his royal navy protects him, Shaddam offers Leto Atreides control of the lucrative planet Arrakis, known as “Dune” for the vast desert it contains and for the “spice”, a prized drug that facilitates space travel, extended life and other benefits.
Leto Atreides accepts the Emperor’s offer and takes his concubine Jessica and son Paul with him to take charge of the planet. He is able to thwart the initial Harkonnen traps and complications while also building trust with the desert people of Arrakis known as the Fremen. However, when House Corrino’s troops ally in secret with House Harkonnen and are assisted by a traitor in the Atreides camp, the Atreides family is scattered and Duke Leto is killed.
Jessica and her son flee to the desert and are taken in by the Fremen. Jessica gives birth to a daughter named Alia, a full sister to Paul and becomes a Fremen Reverend Mother. As a Reverend Mother, she is able to protect her children as they live among the Fremen. Meanwhile, the spice in the air and water begins to effect Paul Atreides, evolving him into something that had been bred into his genes by Jessica’s Bene Gesserit religious order, but was not supposed to come to fruition in him, but instead to his progeny. Paul’s ability of prescience allows him to grow in influence among the Fremen. He and his mother teach the Fremen the fighting skills of the Bene Gesserit and the desert fighters grow to rival the warriors of both House Corrino and Harkonnen. He takes the name Muad’Dib (the mouse) among them and takes his place as their prophesied messiah.
Eventually, Paul Muad’Dib leads the Fremen to retake Arrakis and to force the Emperor’s hand. Using his power of prescience and his training of being a Duke’s son, he is able to avenge his father’s death, destroy House Harkonnen and wrest the title of Emperor for himself by holding the planet of Dune hostage. Paul Muad’Dib Ateides becomes the master of the known universe.
Honestly, I was afraid to read this book until I was in college. I had heard about it often and thought that I should read it, but it seemed wild and cruel to me, something that might shake my innocence. When I finally found the courage to crack open this Hugo and Nebula award winner, I was completely transported into a world of intrigue, sandworms, drugs, adventure, war, philosophy, and quotes that have become part of my vocabulary from that day forward. Perhaps fear is the little mind killer that we need to face after all? I know that I have not been the same since I read this novel.
Dune is a classic tale that draws from Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces for the first time in science fiction and on such a scale that it touches down into that basic core of mythos that we all spring from. Over the decades it has not dated itself, nor has the ideas and concepts at the core of the story. I believe that this is one of the science fiction classics that should be on everyone’s must read list, but it is not for children due to the violence and to the adult concepts it contains.
Iron Maiden’s song To Tame A Land:
He is destined to be a King
He rules over everything
In the land called planet Dune
Body water is your life
And without it you would die
In the desert the planet Dune
Without a stillsuit you would fry
On the sands so hot and dry
In a world called Arakis
It is a land that’s rich in spice
The sandriders and the ‘mice’
That they call the ‘Muad’Dib’
Dune is not found by free download, but you can seek it out at your local public library or online at any book vendor of your choice. Chances are high that it will be there for sale in one form or another. Keep a copy in your digital or paper bound library. Dune is the first of a series of novels in the Dune Saga, not only by Frank Herbert, but continued by his son, Brian Herbert.