My pal Sujith had adviced me to read this book quite a number of years ago. For one reason or another I was not able to do it (one of the reasons could be that I did pick up one of the subsequent books but found it very boring and confusing, most probably cause I was trying to read it without any context)
The book is fascinating! I could not find any single idea which was revolutionary or shocking (to be fair, it is an old book and i might just be jaded with al the sci-fi we get today) but the way it was put together was really beautiful. It’s sci-fi part of the book is in fact quite interesting – especially in the idea of the whole galaxy depending upon a dry, almost inhabitable planet. his central idea iself makes this book really really good. However this alone would not make his book great.
What makes this book great is the analogies with older stories and histories. Most iconic sci-fi books are iconic because of the way they weave in the myths and histories of human life into fantastic departures from the real world. This makes them topical given any time context. Well in this case that this book is truly iconic!!!
There was not one chapter i read which did not remind me of something else. The two main things it reminded me of was:
one) The story of Lawrence of Arabia. Unmissable in the latter parts. However this was the more tivial of analogies
two) the way the protaganist’s story feels very close to Prophet Mohammed’s story is the real kicker. Unluckly I have ot read the koran or the story of Prophet Mohammed’s life. So the analogy to the beginnings of Islam is just what I know from pop history but it is an uncanny feeling one has while reading the book. And it’s great how that messanic tale has been given a new outlook here.
There were other connections I saw but these where after Dune was published. For example in Robert Jordan’s Wheel Of The World series you have the similar organisations like the Bene Gesserits. Then there is Tatooine – like Dune a desert planet.
Hopping over to the Wikipedia site for Dune I see even more connections which did not click earlier. Primary among them the allusions to the East India Company and foretelling, in a way, a powerful organisation like OPEC. And I completely missed the Aiel reference which can be found in the page “Dune in popular culture“.
Well seems I have come to the end of my page with nary a critical view of the novel. Guess you will have to live with that:D
But before going I will quote these lines which I read here:
“Frank Herbert’s 1963 Dune is to science fiction what The Lord of The Rings is to fantasy: the most popular, most influential and most critically-acclaimed novel in the genre. Herbert’s novel was a revelation: before Dune, even the most well-written science fiction had been mostly “wonderful gadget” stories, or political commentary expressed through exaggeration. It had never occurred to anyone that science fiction could offer the literary depth of Dostoevsky, the intricate “wheels within wheels” intrigues of Shakespeare or so deeply fulfill the heroic epic form behind Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, Le Morte D’Arthur, The Mahabharata, and Beowulf.”
That sums it all – the ability to use science fiction to create myth!