Monday, January 10, 2022

Dune by Frank Herbert

I think I'm going to feel silly saying anything at all about Dune by Frank Herbert after nearly a lifetime of hearing about it and wanting to read it; but, I've decided to go with a Q/A format. 

Warning: There may be some minor spoilers in this review. If you're planning to read Dune, soon, and don't want to take a chance of reading a spoiler, please skip down to the recommendation near the bottom of this post. 

What's Dune about?

The Emperor has instructed the Atreides family (the Duke, his concubine Jessica, and their son Paul) to leave their home planet and move to Arrakis, also known as Dune, where they'll be in charge of the spice trade. Spice is extremely valuable and it seems likely that the Baron Harkonnen, who was previously in charge of spice, will have set a few traps. 

Here's the Google description of the movies:

In the year 10191, a spice called melange is the most valuable substance known in the universe, and its only source is the desert planet Arrakis. A royal decree awards Arrakis to Duke Leto Atreides and ousts his bitter enemies, the Harkonnens. However, when the Harkonnens violently seize back their fiefdom, it is up to Paul [Kyle MacLachlan in 1984; Timothée Chalamet in 2021], Leto's son, to lead the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis, in a battle for control of the planet and its spice. Based on Frank Herbert's epic novel.

Have you seen the movie versions?

Yes, I saw the new Dune movie that only covers half of the book (almost to the page count) and then decided to watch the 1984 version, which I didn't see back in the 80s because I heard it was so awful. It definitely departed farther from the book than the new movie, which is both more accurate and a visual feast. But, in both cases the story kept us glued to the TV. 

Did the book meet your expectations?

Yes and no. It had more of a fantasy aspect than I was expecting, with the Bene Gesserit (the females often referred to as witches, of which Paul's mother, the Lady Jessica, is one) and their powers, then the rituals and rules of the Fremen (the desert people). I'm not big on fantasy but I like sci-fi and I was most interested in finding out the subtle details that can't be portrayed in a movie. So, I guess you could say I liked everything but the religious aspect, although I was fascinated by the way the author blended a bunch of religions and I definitely found myself thinking he either did some rocking fine research or simply had a huge knowledge base. 

Would you recommend Dune?

Absolutely. I know there are people who won't be able to tolerate it, for one reason or another (the somewhat confusing politics, the annoying made-up lingo), but I'm so glad to have finally read it! I felt like there was this Dune-shaped hole in my pop culture knowledge (there are a lot of other holes, unfortunately) and I found that it was an epic story with a huge depth and breadth that captured me in every form. Even as inaccurate and visually unappealing (often repellent) as the 1984 version of Dune was, the story still was compelling. 

What did you find surprising and special about Dune?

It was way ahead of its time in regard to ecological preservation. You don't get this from the movie (at least, not from the 1984 version) but the planet has at some point been ravaged and yet, in spite of being almost entirely desert, the indigenous people, the Fremen, are in the process of a plan to renew the planet that will take many, many generations. And, yet they know its value isn't in the harvesting of a single product. They also know how the spice is generated and have control over that, if need be. So, while I expected the political aspect because of what happens in the movies, I was most thrilled by the fact that it said a planet can be brought back from disaster if you have the patience and dedication. 

Did the book answer all your questions about the movies?

Yes, and then some. The one thing that I didn't get when I watched the movies was, "Why would Duke Leto take his family, his security team, and everyone else who ran their home and grounds to Arrakis if he knew spice was the most valuable thing in the universe?" Clearly Baron Harkonnen wouldn't willingly give up the planet's harvest. So, it seemed like kind of a set-up and I actually said that, as I was watching the first movie (the newer one). The book answers that question early on. Since a great deal of the book is internal and the newer movie is heavily visual, the movie does leave some questions lingering. But, there's much more to the book than either of the movies and everything was answered. 

Highly recommended - While I disliked the more fantasy-oriented aspects of Dune, it is such an amazingly detailed world and so incredibly plotted that I probably should have given it 5 stars just for the depth of detail. But, I took a point off for annoying made-up language. That's the thing I actually can't tolerate about fantasy, all the weird words and names and strange religiosity. I tend to have trouble remembering made-up language. I like sci-fi, though, and Dune is a blend of sci-fi and fantasy. So, while it will not become an all-time favorite classic for me, it was well worth the read and I still highly recommend it. At around 700 pages, it's a bit of a chunkster and surprisingly, I've come to enjoy sinking into a world for a longer time. I used to consider anything over 400 pages a chunkster and was a little terrified of those longer books. Not anymore. 

Because I like how and where the book ended, I don't plan to read any of the many sequels. However, this particular copy has an afterword by the author's son that made the continuation sound tempting. 

©2022 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I tried to read this once many years ago and just could not get through the first chapter. Have often wondered if it's worth another effort, certainly lots of readers seem to think so!

    1. Honestly, I think if you're anything like me you need a deep desire to get through it or it's not going to take. Having watched both of the movies recently, I wanted to read to understand the subtleties that I thought I was missing and I'm glad I did. It definitely filled in the gaps. But, there were parts of the book that I had to shove myself through because they leaned too hard into the fantasy mode, which I truly dislike.

  2. So- do you think I'd appreciate the book better if I watch the movie first? (really I had no interest in the film since the book never held my attention)

    1. Yes, but it might just not be your thing. I was always interested in this particular story and seeing the movie motivated me. It's slow (the new one) but if you like the story and want to know more, the book fills in the details nicely.


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