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Dune ()

Orrin's All-Time Top Ten List - Novels

If I say that Dune is like a James Clavell novel set in the outer reaches of the Galaxy, do folks understand that I mean that as a compliment?  Like Clavell, the great strength of Herbert's novel is the way that he intertwines plots and schemes:  everyone has their own agenda; alliances are temporary and purely expedient; loyalties are shifting; even kinship is no bar to treachery.

The central story concerns Paul Atreides, the 15 year old son of Duke Leto and his Bene Gesserit concubine the Lady Jessica.  Paul is the product of a millennia old Bene Gesserit breeding program and may be the Kwisatz Haderach, a hyper-evolved mental adept with extraordinary extrasensory powers.  Even as Lady Jessica is training Paul in the ways of the Bene Gesserit, the Duke is training him to lead the embattled House Atreides.  Emperor Shaddam IV has just turned over control of the desert planet Arrakis with its invaluable spice concession to the Atreides, but the Emperor recognizes that Duke Leto is a powerful rival and and the Imperium's invincible troopers, the Sardaukar, make the Emperor particularly dangerous.  Likewise, the Atreides rising fortunes have caused jealousy and hatred among other families of the Landsraad, a sort of combine of the great trading houses.  In particular, the vile Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, whose House Harkonnen has just lost control of Arrakis, also known as Dune, is bent on the destruction of the Atreides.  As plots and counterplots explode, sometimes quite literally, Paul and the Lady Jessica are turned out into the desert of Dune where no humans can long survive exposure to the elements, but they are taken in by the mysterious Fremen, a fierce desert people who believe that Paul may be their Messiah.  At this point, Herbert brings religious themes into the mix and the story really gets interesting.

This book won both the Hugo and Nebula awards and is widely considered to be one of, if not the, best science fiction novels ever written.  It is a grand space opera combining elements of Byzantine politics and an Islam-like religious movement.  Ironically, the weakest strand of the story is also the most speculative.  Melange, the spice of Dune, is so valuable because it is basically a mind-altering drug, which is used by the Spacing Guild to warp space and time and facilitate intergalactic travel.  While the political and religious strands of the story have a familiar logic to them, whenever the story turns to Melange and its effects, the tale gets pretty sketchy.  Unfortunately, in the sequels to the book this drug-induced storyline gained increasing prominence at the expense of coherence.  But for this one novel, Frank Herbert masterfully wields his complex plot across a sweeping canvas and soaks the maximum tension out of a large scale political and religious conflict.  The reputation of the novel is well deserved.


Grade: (A+)


Frank Herbert Links:
    -WIKIPEDIA: Frank Herbert
-INTERVIEW: Frank Herbert Explains the Origins of Dune (1969) (Willis E. McNelly, 1969)
    -EXCERPT: from Frank Herbert by Timothy O’Reilly: Chapter 3: From Concept to Fable: The Evolution of Dune
    -ESSAY: Frank Herbert's Dune (Mark Koyama, Feb 20, 2023, SSRN)
-PROFILE: Brian Herbert on Dune: ‘My Father Could See Into the Future’ Frank Herbert’s son is the keeper of the canon and the ultimate defender of his dad’s work. (ANGELA WATERCUTTER, 10.07.2021 , wired)
-ESSAY: Dune and progressive media illiteracy (Jaimee Marshall, 3 May, 2024, The Critic)
    -ESSAY: Dune: Part Two and the Death of Freedom (JOSEPH HOLMES, MARCH 6, 2024, Religion & Liberty)
    -ESSAY: What Accounts for the Lasting Appeal of Dune?: Michael Dirda on the Perennial Resonance of Frank Herbert's Masterpiece (Michael Dirda, December 2, 2021, Folio Society)
    -PODCAST: ‘Dune Messiah’ Feels Like a First Draft (GEEK'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY CULTURE, 02.24.23, Wired)
    -ESSAY: Frank Herbert, the Republican Salafist: The author of 'Dune' articulated his conservative politics not against but through his engagement with non-Western cultures (Haris A. Durrani, December 31, 2021, NewLines)
    -ESSAY: The Muslimness of Dune: A Close Reading of “Appendix II: The Religion of Dune” (Haris Durrani, Mon Oct 18, 2021,
    -ESSAY: Discovering human dignity in Villeneuve’s Dune (DYLAN PAHMAN, OCTOBER 30, 2021, Acton Blog)
    -ESSAY: The strategic hole at the center of ‘Dune’ (Daniel W. Drezner, Oct. 28th, 2021, Washington Post)
    -ESSAY: In Dune, Paul Atreides led a jihad, not a crusade: Here is why that matters. (Ali Karjoo-Ravary, 10/11/20, Al Jazeera)
    -ESSAY: Will Denis Villeneuve’s Dune live up to Frank Herbert’s novel?: A new adaptation of the Dune trilogy seeks to avoid the quagmire of cultural appropriation while remaining faithful to the original’s wide-ranging spirit (Kevin Blankinship, October 11, 2021, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: ‘Dune’ novels draw on Islamic motifs and have in turn inspired Muslim artists: The original series of 'Dune' novels is heavily influenced by ecology and sociology — as well as imagery from the Islamic world and the Middle East. (Joseph Hammond, October 18, 2021, Religion News Service)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Frank Herbert's Dune - A Cautionary Tale (Kevin Corcoran, 5/01/24, EconLib)
    -ESSAY: Is Dune Better in Hebrew?: Israeli readers go crazy for the translation by prolific Emanuel Lottem, which showcases the vibrance of the book and the language itself (RAZ GREENBERG, OCTOBER 20, 2021, The Tablet)
    -ESSAY: The Orientalism Of Dune (Mir Ali Hosseini, 10/18/21, 3 Quarks)
    -ESSAY: Race Consciousness: Fascism and Frank Herbert's "Dune" (Jordan S. Carroll, NOVEMBER 19, 2020, LA Review of Books)
-ESSAY: Heresies of “Dune” (Daniel Immerwahr, NOVEMBER 19, 2020, LA Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: Planetary Scientists Recreate Arrakis From Dune, and It Really Is a Hellhole: Climate models suggest a fictional planet like Arrakis would be habitable, but just barely. (George Dvorsky, 11/05/21, Gizmodo)
-ESSAY: Dune’s Dark Destinies: A new film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s cult classic asks whether heroes truly get to choose their fate. (Noah Millman, June 6, 2024, Modern Age)


    -ESSAY: Dune: “Beware of Heroes” (David Hudson, NOV 2, 2021, Criterion: The Daily)
    -FILM REVIEW ARCHIVE: Dune (Metacritic)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dune (Alec Dent, The Dispatch)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dune (Wired)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dune (Nathaniel Birzer, Imaginative Conservative) Human Dignity and the Politics of Dune : Dune: Part Two contains conservative truths about human nature the fate of political faiths. (Kody W. Cooper, 3/22/24, Law & Liberty)
-ESSAY: Dune, Belief, and the Entrepreneur Messiah: Dune: Part Two raises the question of whether all religions are synthetic. (Sohrab Ahmarim Mar 26, 2024, American Conservative)
    -ESSAY: ‘Dune: Part Two’ Is a Religious Experience (Geek's Guide to the Galaxy, Wired)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dune II (Titus Techera, Law & Liberty)

Book-related and General Links:
-Frank Herbert: presented by Science Fiction and Fantasy World
    -Map of Arrakis (The World of Dune)
    -Terminology (The World of Dune)
    -ESSAY: The Frank Herbert  Memorial Sunset  Watch (Vonda N McIntyre)
    -Dune Novels Official Website
    -The World of Dune
    -Museum Arrakeen
     -The Fedaykin - Home
     -Dune: Behind the Scenes
    -Dune Index
    -Frank Herbert's Dune
    -Dart's Dune Page
    -Literary Research Guide: Frank Herbert (1920 - 1986)
    -REVIEW: Dune:  Machiavellis in spaceships meet the biggest nightcrawlers you've ever seen... (Tamara I. Hladik, SciFi Channel)
    -REVIEW: of GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE By Frank Herbert (Gerald Jonas, NY Times Book Review)

    -ESSAY: How Dune changed a climate-change pioneer’s life: ‘It was a very powerful realisation’ (Richard Lord, 9 Sep, 2021, SCMP Magazine)
-ESSAY: Deconstructing the psychedelic sounds of ‘Dune’ (MARK WILSON, FastCompany)
   -REVIEW: Frank Herbert's Dune: It can be filmed!: A review of the Sci-Fi Channel Miniseries (Fred Bush, Strange Horizons)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: A Tale of Two Dunes (Titus Techera, 12/17/21, Law & Liberty)
    -FILM REVIEW: Dune (Tris Mamone, Splice Today)