“A triumph of the imagination, Dune is considered Herbert’s finest work”

 

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

This sci-fi novel is set in a technologically advanced, huge interplanetary empire.  Crucial to the operation of said empire is a drug known as Melange or simply “Spice”.  This drug allows (amongst others) the navigators the Space Guild to see into the future and thus guide the spaceships on a safe route to their destination, keeping vital commerce and other routes open.

It also allows other individuals to tap into knowledge of the past.  The Spice is harvested with great difficulty and danger in only one place – Arrakis – a hostile desert planet more commonly known as “Dune”.  Dune is home to the native Fremen – a fiercely independent and semi-nomadic people who live in the deep desert.  Others living on Dune are a population of non-natives mainly associated with the spice mining operations, along with a few empire bureaucrats living in the small number of built settlements on the planet.

There are multiple noble houses participating in something akin to a medieval feudal system as they jockey for favoured positions in both commerce and influence with the Emperor.  In addition, several powerful interest groups use advanced genetic techniques, combined with intensive training programmes to give their members abilities that appear almost magical to the reader.

This all leads to a complex political landscape that makes the antics of the Borgias seem like a Sunday afternoon family picnic in comparison.

Into this political maelstrom enters Paul Atreides, a young man, and heir, of one noble house that is set to replace another on Dune with rights to mine the Spice, and all that entails in revenue and status for House Atreides.  If this all sounds too good to be true, it is…

There is a strong environmental message in the novel which you can take or leave.  Despite the complexity of the story and the various interests groups, this is a remarkably easy read and hugely enjoyable as you watch the various political machinations take place before you.  I could vividly ‘see’ the story taking place in my head as I read the authors clear and descriptive text, and it has since become a great favourite of mine.  The book can be read as the first in a (now very) long and frankly variable series or just as a truly excellent stand-alone novel.

 

Reviewed by:

Debbie McCarthy

Added 2nd April 2015

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Debbie McCarthy

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