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Reviews of Dune (1965)

Review by schewek (2009-04-01)
The novel 'Dune' covers the initial part of the story arc continued in 'Dune Messiah' and 'Children of Dune', and as such is best viewed as part of that series.

Most reviews of the three books praise the first, slam the second, and put the third somewhere in the middle. Here, I want to make the argument that the whole three-part story line is essential to Frank Herbert's ideas he wanted to develop, and which he revisited other works as well. These include
* mind-enhancing drugs (here, 'Spice'; cf. 'The Santaroga Barrier');
* limits of human consciousness (cf. 'The Dosadi Experiment')
* an all female society that manipulates society (here, the 'Bene Gesserith'; cf. 'The Godmakers')
* religious manipulations (cf. 'The Godmakers')
* isolated groups under pressure (here, the Fremen, cf. 'The Dosadi Experiment', 'Destination: Void')

Covering such topics, it should come as no surprise that there is no emphasis on scientific and technological revolutions, as present in other SF. The series can even be read as a caution against reliance on technology, and the depiction of a society that tries to advance by advancing human abilities. Examples of these are the interstellar pilots ('Guildsmen') who guide their craft through an unexplained fold-space, the human computers ('Mentants'), the genetical Engineers (actually resembling breeders, 'Bene Gesserit').

Focusing now on the first book, the top layer is the fate of Paul Atreides, who loses his father and inheritance to a conspiracy, and following a classical story of a hero, sets out to regain what he considers his own. This story is a more traditional adventure story, leading to the final climax in single combat between the hero and his nemesis.

The second layer, without which the whole story would be simply average, are the machinations between the major factions: House Atreides, House Harkonnen, the Emperor, the Fremen, plus a few minor players. Here, Herbert excels in

The success in the second layer rests, in my opinion, to a large extent on using 'Stram of Consciousness' to tell the story. This method also aids in illuminating Paul's inner development, who's campaign of revenge becomes more and more interleaved with his growing awareness of the final destiny of humanity, and his role in it.

To be continued...
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A number of notions expressed in this review owe their existence to Timothy O'Reilly's book 'Frank Herbert'.


(This review refers to the 1965 version titled “Dune”)

Review by texanvkg (2009-02-28)
Superior in depth and vision, the detail given the characters, political and social entities, relationships, and settings make this story exceptional. In addition to being a captivating read, it has had had a cultural impact beyond literature as the basis for "Star Wars," the Iron Maiden song "To Tame a Land," and as comic mechanism in the movie "Beetlejuice," amongst other appearances in various venues. One of the few novels I have read back-to-back, this story transcends its sci-fi and fantasy roots. I recommend this book to all fans of good literature.

Review by kadambi (2006-03-11)
Dune has some interesting concepts eg travelling using foldspace and prescience, but in general the theme is retrograde (for a SF book).It bored me to death. It is probably one of the most banal works ever done and worse, it has pretensions of sophistcation.

Being an atheist, I found references to religion, the "arrival of a messiah" to be plain offensive. Also, for a universe set in the distant future, the societies are more medival than "futuristic"(even considering the ban on all thinking machines). This future has emporers, dukes, barons et al. Free society I guess is an alien concept. I wouldn't want to live in such a feudalistic society.

Review by ropie (2005-10-21)
Absolutely not the best science fiction book ever, but it's still pretty good. I found it fell foul of some slushy writing and irritatingly short action sequences, with it's entrenchment in glossary-and-appendices-requiring detail being a personal dislike.

Despite the criticisms the book is still very readable. It contains some fascinating characters, genuinely interesting philosophical insights and a lot of ideas (some successful, some not so). In particular Herbert's treatment of the landscape of the planet Arrakis was very convincing, if underused I felt.

A strong story, it just never really grabbed me and didn't quite manage to justify its popularity.

Review by Corleone (2004-01-14)
Ten times more relevant, detailed, and psychological than Star Wars could ever aspire to be. The mixture of environmental issues, technological predictions, careful plotting, and just pure imagination make this one of the (if not THE) greatest science fiction novels ever.

Review by bcseiny (2003-07-18)
Absolutely wonderful book. Not only very thought provoking but a good action novel as well. Still captivates me after all this time since I read it. In addition, it is the portal to the rest of the dune chronicles, so a must read for them. Definately one of the best books and series of all time.

Review by kbreit (2003-05-29)
I can't say anything for Dune except the following..."Wow". I read it last summer in Boston during an internship during my free time. I would be at home, digesting it in massive quantities in one sitting, and want to stay home the next day just to read the book.

The language is challenging, but not too challenging. It is the perfect length and quite possibly a perfect plot. The parallels to the oil industry are also interesting to the intellectual who enjoys such theories.

One thing which I can't help but consider is how much of a fantasy it feels like. While it was very much a sci-fi book, I couldn't help but see the fantasy in it as well. Regardless, I loved this book and can't wait to read it again and again. One of my top 3 favorites of all time; a must read.

Review by lucasw (2003-03-13)
Read it once, read the rest of the series, and read it again. Wait five years, repeat. Try the Brian Herbert 'prequels' later on, but don't let them taint the originals.

Review by rootbeer (2003-03-10)
I had a problem with Dune, in that the driving force behind all the action was the political maneuvering going on behind the scenes. While that is ordinarily a great plot device, setting it in Frank Huber's invented political system far in the future, which we only get to see as those maneuverings unfold, seems kind of artificial. The political system is unfamiliar to us except in the context of the book, so the effects of the various manipulators of the system simply is whatever Hubert needs it to be in order to drive the plot forward. All the weaknesses of the system, all the loopholes that could be employed, and all the gaps in the power structure are slaves to the plot, while it should be the other way around. There can be no doubt that the universe is highly imaginative, and the new classes of people (like the Mentats and Bene Gesseret) were fascinating to read about. This would have been an exciting universe in which to place a better story.

Review by lmagarga (2003-03-08)
Everything that could be said, has. If you have any taste for science fiction, read this book.

Review by KC7WUE (2003-03-08)
An excellent story. The power of the book wasn't in creating the different cultures but in working out how the balance of power would shift between them. For example, the Fremen are based on the Caucasians ( people who lived in barren areas, in caves, and proved very difficult for the Russians to conquer); the Sardukar are the Sultan's Janissaries; and Paul is every deposed heir who has had to fight his way back to the throne.

Review by transient0 (2003-03-07)
This book is a pinnacle of science fiction and holds it own when compared against literature as a whole. Anyone can enjoy and appreciate this book, whether the are a science fiction fan or not. The rest of the series is more along traditional science fiction lines, but Dune itself is a literary classic.

Review by Cocteau (2003-03-02)
The best sci-fi book I've ever read. Don't bother with most of the rest of the series, but this is essential reading to everyone.

Review by (2003-02-20)
I absolutely adored this book when I first read it. The universe Frank Herbert describes is amazing. It is hard to classify this book as either science fiction or fantasy since the book has elements of both. The vision of a future without intelligent machines with a focus upon human ability is compelling. The powerful Bene Gesserit is certainly one of the most interesting society of "magic users" seen in the literature so far.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in either science fiction or fantasy.




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