Let’s Talk DUNE

Frank Herbert’s dystopian 1965 novel Dune may be infamous for its level of complexity and difficulty to comprehend for the “average reader”. Despite the stigma formed around even attempting to grasp Herbert’s intricate thought process and language depicted through the book, you will find that it is easily the most influential and revolutionary representation of the science fiction genre to come across. Of course, not without the help of an effective attention span. Which shouldn’t be a problem as I personally have never come across a book as layered in the utmost intriguing way possible.

This book incorporates ideas such as raw human nature, ecology , abstract tradition, as well as the diabolical effects of politics, power and especially heroism on certain individuals. Reading Dune was an awakening of some sort, definitely a once in a lifetime experience. In other words, I appreciate this novel.

Set in the very distant, imaginative future, Dune follows the extraordinary circumstances of fifteen-year-old Paul Atreides , whose father; the Duke Leto accepts stewardship of planet Arrakis on behalf of House Atreides. Arrakis, also referred to as the desert planet, is rich in an extremely rare spice called ‘Melange’ which is highly valued amongst the Imperium (intergalactic society of Dune) for its prodigious capabilities. Prior to the arrival of House Atreides, the opposing house “Harkonnen” has complete control over the Arrakis spice trade, up until Padishah Emperor (dictator of the Imperium) redirects control to the Atreides. The extremely greedy and malicious Baron Harkonnen (leader of House Harkonnen and primary antagonist of Dune) has one goal; do whatever it takes to eliminate House Atreides. Starting with Duke Leto himself, working his way towards Leto’s concubine ‘Lady Jessica’ and his successor Paul , with vengeful strategy.

Contrary to public opinion, I really liked this book because of its heavy terminology tied in with factors like the substantial use of the setting (Planet Arrakis), and especially Herbert’s approach at exploring the characters’ unique abilities.

To start off, Herbert uses language he had invented exclusively for the sake of enhanced imagery, references to the desert and portrayal of Dune’s immense culture such as the “Lisan al Gaib”. Which refers to “the voice from the outer world”. Making the novel an epic read because of its back-breaking terminology. I was somehow constantly left wanting to know more. While simultaneously understanding every perspective of what was going on and why, with the help of these cross references. My only complaint is the odd placement of the Dune dictionary. Sure, glossaries are typically at the end of a book, but considering the wide variety of unfamiliar vocabulary originally crafted by Herbert himself – the “Terminology of the Imperium” section could have been separately addressed at the start. Understandably people have discontinued reading just after the first bit out of frustration.

Moreover, Arrakis itself plays as a crucially utilized setting in the book, disguised behind just plain abundant lands of desert are additional conflicts and layers to the story. Extraterrestrial beings are introduced, from large scale organisms like the monstrous sandworms to Fremen; human natives of the planet. The setting on its own houses the volume of thousands of characters and means of symbolism associated with Arrakis’ traditional ways. Incorporated into the environment of Dune (both life and setting), Herbert makes sure we recognize the implication of concerns such as environmental exploitation, global warming and spiritual connection to nature. Seeming to be more relevant now than back in 1965 I presume. Ecology has been brought to a whole new level and Dune is made to be ultimately eye-opening.

Equally important to the rich setting of the story, it’s safe to say that Herbert did not hold back when creating these characters. Supernatural ability may not have been a new concept. However, subsequent to Shakespeare and Stan Lee’s Marvel debut of superhero comics back in 1939, Dune has displayed high standards of both mental and physical human potential. Whether it be demonstrated by the Mentats; human figures in Dune that have been trained to develop the knowledge and processing power of a computer or even protagonist Paul Atreides coming to terms with his increasingly intense prophetic visions. These peculiar yet fascinating additions to the characters continue to make the story so much more interesting and enjoyable, especially if you’re into the prominent superhuman presence.

To reference a significant saying in the novel “Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.” (Herbert, 1147). Dune will test your perspective on the world, in different ways for different readers considering how much is up for interpretation. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an imagination seeking a heavy challenge. As has been said, it is an awakening to concepts of human nature, ruthless politics, environmental consequence, religion and so much more. Although Dune is considered to be more under the ‘adult fiction’ area of literature, it’s safe to say that any age group above the rough estimate of 12 can develop interest and even benefit from its colossal degree of captivating complexity.

It may come as a shock that some of the more familiar, modern day works of science fiction have all borrowed from the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert to some extent. If you’re interested in things like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or even Marvel , I highly suggest familiarizing yourself with Dune as it is essentially the original upbringing of the genre.

Aneela Alam


” I write science fiction for people who don’t read science fiction”

-Frank Herbert