in books, review

spice, space, and sand: a return to frank herbert’s dune

Apparently, when I have a cold, I like to read books I’ve read at least a dozen times before.  I think my knowledge (okay, memorization, basically) of the plot gets me through the times when I’m so befuddled from sneezing that I can’t see straight.

So, Frank Herbert’s Dune. It’s often listed as one of the classics of science fiction, but it has some distinctly mystical and near-magic elements.  The writing style is excellent, and the back story that is implied (but not bogged down with too much description) is deep and fascinating.  In fact, although few of its sequels live up to the promise of the first novel, Dune is one of the greatest beginnings of all science-fiction.

It begins with the young Paul Atreides, heir to Duke Leto.  He is the culmination of centuries of controlled breeding by the Bene Gesserit and the rebellion of his mother in bearing a son. Paul has dreams that foretell the future and has been trained as a fighter and leader from his birth. In a short time, though, his world begins to fall apart, and all of those that he had depended on are taken away from him.

Although Paul is the central character in the novel, his mother, Lady Jessica, is of utmost importance.  She is a trained Bene Gesserit courtesan, able to command others with her voice and sensitive to the subtlest of clues.  She is weakened, however, by her love for Paul’s father, Duke Leto.  Because of that love, she has born him a son when told to have a daughter, and she has put the plans of Bene Gesserit in jeopardy.

Soon, political machinations force Duke Leto and his family to a new planet, Arrakis. Arrakis, fabled for the spice mined from its desert sands, is an inhospitable and dangerous place. Only the Fremen, the nomads of the desert, are able to safely navigate the dunes and hills that cover the planet. The Fremen also have a secret, jealously and effectively guarded, that will effect the very future of the planet.

However, the move to Arrakis is only the beginning, and the machinations of the enemies of the House Atreides are the flint that sets off a future out of anyone’s control. Soon, Paul and his mother will be running into the desert looking for salvation.  A salvation that Paul’s visions say could lead to a galaxy-wide jihad and millions of deaths. Paul Atreides is the culmination of a millenia of planning that came to fruition a generation early, and he is beyond the control of others. The Atreides family is walking into a trap, but it is Bene Gesserit and the nobility of the galaxy that will be caught in the end.