Frank Herbert’s Dune is the epitome of what Science Fiction and Space Opera should be. It is to sci-fi what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. A story of such epic proportions, it’s hard to understand how one person could write it.
The story takes place many millennia in mankind’s future. Millenia which Herbert already has filled with tens of thousands of years of backstory. Technology has progressed and digressed. Religion has been boiled down to tools for a shadow government. Government has reverted to feudalism. The rise of fall of planets, tribes, religions, languages, corporations and families makes up the rich backstory, and is never fully explained.
Dune is likely the inspiration behind the desert planet of Luke Skywalker and the Empire of Star Wars. The Jedi Mind Trick is taken from the Bene Gesserit voice. The sandworm of Beetlejuice was modeled after Shai-Hulud. Vulcans are surprisingly similar to the Herbert’s Mentats.
Dune is also a warning. The desert dwelling freedom fighters with their messianic rage are a startling picture of how the combination of harsh conditions and religious fervor can creating a terrifyingly strong force.
Then there’s the planet Arrakis. The planet is utterly devastated, an endless desert where life is short and hard. When I first read Dune in seventh grade I remember becoming intensely aware of how I used water. Dune opens your eyes to the desertification we are forcing on the world around us.
The story itself is little more than Hamlet rehashed. This is fine, because it serves as little more than a vehicle for a look into the dangers of politics, religion, genetic engineering and environmental devastation. I would recommend the book to anyone who thinks seriously about these things, or just likes a good imagination at work.