Book Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

On the beautiful paradise-planet Caladan, the Duke Leto Atreides and his family are packing up for a long journey. Paul, Leto’s fifteen-year-old son and heir, is waiting.

Until a strange old woman walks in and informs Paul that he is about to undergo a test. This old woman is the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, a leader among the schools of the Bene Gesserit that produced Paul’s mother Jessica. The Bene Gesserit have plotted and planned for many years, combining carefully selected bloodlines, all in the hope of producing the Kwisatch Haderach: the male who can look inside himself and see a place that women cannot see. The Reverend Mother’s test is the first step of questioning whether Paul might be this mysterious individual. Her test is painful, and it leaves Paul with what he calls a “sense of terrible purpose.”

But a sense of terrible purpose for what?

Paul’s world is about to be shaken to its foundations. Arrakis, the hostile desert planet that is the Atreides’ destination, contains a threat Duke Leto anticipates. He just doesn’t know in what form it will come. The Harkonnens, mortal enemies of the Atreides, occupied the planet before and they would never leave unless they had some incentive of revenge – because Arrakis is the only location in the universe that contains melange, the valuable spice that must be harvested from the sand. When the expected disaster overtakes the Atreides, Paul and his mother must make their way among the Fremen inhabitants of the desert, biding their time, collecting strength, discovering secrets. And in the deep desert where only the Fremen could survive, where water is the most precious thing in the world, where colossal worms plow through the dunes . . . secrets are everywhere.

*                    *                  *

I’ve read many science fiction books, but Dune is unquestionably my favorite out of all of them. In this book, Frank Herbert creates an entire world, complete with politics, economics, biology, and the people to belong. There is a rich history behind everything. Bene Gesserit schemes, the raw power of the Imperial Emperor and his army of Saurdakar, the treachery of the Harkonnens and Paul’s determination – all come together into a storyline where every action and event is driven by purpose. It’s a wonderful book. Read it.

[Content caution: The Bene Gesserit breeding plans involve a couple of mentioned out-of-wedlock births. The Baron Harkonnen and his nephew are portrayed as completely evil, and as such, they enjoy evil pleasures (which are not described but are referred to.) Finally, considerable violence is depicted. For these reasons, I would hesitate to recommend Dune to anyone under fourteen or fifteen.]

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