Review: Dune

Far be it from my normal activities to review books, in order to document my progress in reading more books, I shall review Frank Herbert’s Dune which I finished last night.

In short, it is a quasi-mystical, science-fictional imagining of our universe, at least 10,000 years into the future, where space-travel is the norm, along with the reign of several old Houses within an interplanetary Empire. Politics and religion are both a cornerstone to the novel. The secretive and omnipresent Bene Gesserit sect has many intriguing advanced mental powers, as well as the pretence to there being a higher cause behind their obscure machinations. The Mentat, with highly advanced abilities of abstract cognition, serve as a replacement for computers. The politics of the area are hard to grasp in the beginning: crucially the plot orbits the ancient fued between the protagonist’s Atreides and antagonising Harkonnen royal bloodlines. Paul’s mother Lady Jessica being a Bene Gessrit, and his father Duke Leto Atreides as the new ruler of Arrakis, ensure that much of this religious and political import is relevant to Paul’s immediate story. The fight over the planet Arrakis – or Dune – and its precious, mysterious produce of Melange, is the crux of the book.

Now to have ended the synopsis, I’m free to pronounce that I enjoyed the book greatly. Not only this but the intricacy of the plots, and the many references to tricks within tricks within tricks, make me feel considerably more able to comprehend the complexities that arise in the interactions between people, and plans. The book plays out like an elaborate, multi-dimensional game of chess, and you do not see all the pieces at once nor the number of dimensions, and it is the reader’s game to guess the moves.

That’s not to detract from the characterisation. Herbert paints just enough grandeur of religious mystery to make believable the miraculous superposition of events and character that becomes our main character Paul Atreides’ life. Nonetheless, the young adolescent – who becomes a young man – is kept in enough of a tight situation at any point to have his victories seem an achievement rather than an inevitability.

In summation it was a pretty cool book and I’ll probably read the sequel some day! Next review: Virginia Woolfe’s The Waves.

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