Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

I’ve tried to read Dune before. It was a ‘started-but-couldn’t-finish’ during my Books Before 30 years (technically a break from the rules, but it was killing my desire to read).

I’m not sure what made me want to read it again, a friend mentioned reading it, a sudden desire to fall into an epic sci-fi, perhaps both. Dune by Frank Herbert was an intricate reading experience, a novel I’m glad I’ve read but didn’t entirely enjoy the reading.

Dune by Frank Herbert“Melange, or ‘spice’, is the most valuable – and rarest – element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person’s life-span to making intersteller travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis. Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis’ second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands. In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them.

And his journey will change the universe.” GoodReads.

For a book written in the mid-sixties, Dune still holds today. You can see its influences, Star Wars, in particular, comes to mind. It’s so very separate from reality, in a totally different universe to our own. It is this that prevents the novel from dating, with no relation to the technology of the 60s there is no possible way for it to feel as though it is from the past. Even the technology of the Dune universe is so clever, with enough detail to understand the world, but not too much that my own reality may compare to it.

It’s a long novel with a lot of detail, detail that must be paid attention too. It took half the novel to recognise all the characters and their roles. The first half the novel was engrossing, but more because I knew at some point the harmony of Paul and Jessica’s existence was going to change. Once Paul begins his transition from boy to man, I was ready for the page to pick up. It doesn’t. Some of that process is interesting and some of it isn’t.

Paul and Jessica were characters I wanted to follow and for a 60s novel, it felt surprisingly egalitarian. With female warriors (but so much more that warriors) in the form of the Bene Gesserit, masters of manipulation and knowledge. Also, there is a kick-ass, all-knowing three-year-old that became my favourite character. In case you read it, I can’t tell you more.

I started watching the film a few days ago, which may have been a mistake (but it has Patrick Stuart in it, instant win!). So now I’m not sure I paid enough attention to the novel. The Guild were not as expected. Nor was the bending of space.

Go forth and read Dune my friends, if only to quiz me on how much attention I paid (and to discuss the three-year-old).

11 thoughts on “Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

  1. A few years ago I joined a readalong of this book. It was a great experience but I think I was the only one who didn’t get along with the book as such. We wrote a whole series of reviews. I was glad that we could disucss itin details. Like you, I was glad I read it but I didn’t enjoy it. What’s interesting though is that the images he created stayed in my mind. I haven’t seen the movie, so it’s not influenced. The reviews are at my blog, if you’re interested.


    1. I feel the same, I have a vivid picture of Arrakis, Paul, Jessica. And that’s without the films influence. It was a good book for that. I enjoyed parts of it, but a lot of the politics bogged me down


  2. I still have never read Dune! I started it on a family camping trip once, ages ago — this was “camping,” not real camping, where we rented cabins and cooked tons of food and basically I just lay around on the sofa reading all weekend with occasional breaks to go hiking or kayaking. Basically ideal circumstances to love a new book, and even so, I got halfway through Dune and couldn’t make myself read another word. So I suspect it’s not the book for me. Sorry Frank Herbert!


  3. I read Dune when I was a teenager and I remember I found it a tedious read. (it put me off science fiction for years, actually)
    I see I’m not the only one not raving about it.


  4. It sounds like a really interesting read. When you have a book with a really good idea, sometimes you want to stay and continue to read to see where it goes. It has captured my attention so might check it out. xD


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