Book Review: Dune

By Tyler Wang

Sandworms, a vast desert, coveted moisture, royal houses in conflict, great wisdom, great power. 

Welcome to Arrakis: the central stage of Frank Herbert’s 1965 masterful work in science fiction, Dune. We shall follow Paul Atreides, a boy born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, in his attempt to bring to reality mankind’s most desired and unattainable dream. We follow him through his journey on Arrakis, a planet of great creatures, formidable enemies, unfavoured terrain and weather and constant treachery. Here, only the greats who can conquer their fears will survive. 

Dune is highly revered for being one of the most incredible feats of imagination published for people to experience. On top of its magnificent story which has influenced many adored science fiction series including Star Wars, its great takes on society, politics, religion, philosophy, power, and drugs make Dune even more relevant today than at the time of its release. 

Dune’s writing is superb. Characters are rich and engaging, complete with their desires, fears, and inner thoughts, which reveal much about their identity; this is something that I hope the 2021 film includes. The universe is explained in rich detail, making the environments, dumbfounding world, and terrifying creatures appear as a vision to behold in our imagination. Excellent quotes from the world’s yet-unwritten works replace chapter numbers to foreshadow events without revealing anything, and they are also relevant remarks about religion, power, and humanity. These quotes may sometimes appear to be disturbing, cynical, or like a fundamental critique; however, they are pretty insightful perspectives which, if we allow them to, are bound to make us question many intrinsic aspects of life. 

Throughout the book, it becomes pretty plain to see how part of the story’s purpose is to express the effects of extreme power in the hands of someone who didn’t earn it. Much of the story is a commentary on undeserving individuals leading powerful and glamorous lives; perhaps they succeeded once in an unusual way, maybe they committed a horrible act to get ahead and weren’t reprimanded, or a nepotist used their power to appoint them. Each of us likes to think that given power, we would be a good person. Herbert doesn’t necessarily differ; I think he simply wants us to put ourselves in the character’s shoes and ponder more deeply what our actions would be in this context. If we were born into power or handed it on a plate, what would we do with it? Your answer may be questionable. In fact, Dune also asks us to try and see beyond power; when we see people with immense power and or wealth, two things that frequently arrive together, we usually wish ill upon them. When we see news online of people who followed through with bad decisions, can we try to put ourselves in their difficult situation and see how we would genuinely handle the pressure? We must take the time to ask ourselves these questions. 

The biggest issue with Dune is the first hundred-fifty or so pages because getting through this section of essential world-building challenged me. The plot starts to move slowly and carefully. There are indeed chapters with intriguing events sprinkled in, but I often wondered if anything of significance had happened. The story picks up rapidly after the beginning. We’ll know we’ve completed the pages of world-building when multiple significant events occur in the middle of chapters. All in all, it’s not an issue worth much attention. Given that this is the debut in an entirely new universe with lots of terminologies, concepts, history, and different peoples to introduce to readers, it’s impossible not to make a heavy beginning with exposition and fictional terms. 

Dune is a thrilling ride and one of the most unique and unforgettable creative works I’ve ever experienced. It surpassed my expectations. Reading it is a marvel, just for the opportunity to convert text to striking imagery, which is why I can’t wait to see Denis Villeneuve’s version of it on the screen. I’m also very eager to read the sequels, starting with Dune Messiah. Yes- the journey isn’t over yet by any means. So join the fight. It is never too late to experience such an extravagant triumph of the human imagination. 

Rating: 4.5/5