This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I decided to write a review for it to honor the 50th anniversary of its publication. Dune has been called the greatest science fiction novel ever written; legendary science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke admitted, “I know nothing comparable to it except The Lord of the Rings.” It spawned seven sequels (two of which were penned by his son Brian Herbert and Brian’s friend Keven J. Anderson) and a multitude of prequels, but none of them (in my opinion, anyway) can ever quite match the one that started it all.
Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, the fifteen-year-old son of Duke Leto Atreides, as his family moves from their ancestral home on Caladan to the desert planet Arrakis, home of the much-coveted spice. Spice is used for a multitude of reasons–for regular people it prolongs their lives; for the Guild Navigators it enhances their prescience so that they are able to safely navigate space, and for the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood it enhances their Truthsayer abilities. Whoever controls Arrakis controls the richest planet in the known universe…and there are some who will stop at nothing to exactly that. But the politics are just the backdrop of the story; something much bigger looms on the horizon, and Paul is at the center of the storm. Exposure to the spice triggers a change in him…will he become the Kwisatz Haderach, a male with the powers of the most adept of the Bene Gesserit Sisters? Or is he becoming something else entirely?
This is only a small portion of the plot–much like LotR, Dune has a vast, epic landscape that captures your imagination and sweeps you off on a journey you never dreamed possible. It has its fair share of dreams and nightmares, contained within a world that feels just as real as our own, populated with people you might encounter in our own lives–the loyal, trustworthy Gurney Halleck, wise, cautious Stilgar, honorable Duke Leto, devoted Jessica, steadfast Chani, and, of course, Paul himself, haunted by the future he sees for himself and desperate for a way to break free.
Why is Dune considered the greatest science fiction novel of all time? For many of the same reasons that The Lord of the Rings is considered the greatest fantasy epic of all time–the setting and the people are all drawn vividly, and the story is told by someone who clearly cares about the story he wants to tell…a story that will stick in your head for the rest of your life.