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‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert Review: Classic Sci-Fi Novel Leaves Much To Be Desired

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Paul Atreides was born to rule. As the son of a Duke, he’s always known that one day the fate of his people will rest on his shoulders. But now he feels that he may be meant for something more. Since moving to a new planet with his family, Paul has been feeling like he is destined for even bigger things. Perhaps instead of leading his people, he is meant to save them. Find out in the classic sci-fi story Dune by Frank Herbert.

[Warning: My review of Dune contains some spoilers!]

Dune by Frank Herbert is a classic hero’s tale set in space

When we first met Paul he’s already an exceptional kid. His mother has been training him in the ways of the Bene Gesserit since he was little, even though he’s a boy, and he’s proven quite adept. Quiet and thoughtful, Paul can see connections that others may miss. Now the Imperium has gifted his father the planet of Arrakis with all its spice riches. On the surface, it looks like a great honor but not everything is as it seems. 

Arrakis is an inhospitable desert planet where no one in their right mind would want to go. Except that it’s the only source of spice in the universe. Spice is a substance that greatly enhances human intelligence. It’s the most valuable substance in the universe. Everyone wants it and whoever controls the supply stands to be very rich and extremely powerful.

So of course, the previous holders of Arrakis, the Harkonnens, aren’t giving up the planet and its riches that easily. They quietly plot the downfall of Paul and his family. When the trap is sprung, Paul’s father is killed and so are most of their people, but Paul and his mother manage to escape to the desert.

The Fremen, desert natives, take them in. They have a special reason for doing so. There is an old legend among the Fremen about a savior that will come and deliver them and the planet from oppression. They believe that this savior is Paul. He already has his training from his mother and his father, but now he’s being trained by the Fremen too. Will Paul become the hero who will not only avenge his people but save them too?

Dune by Frank Herbert Book Cover

A intergalactic drug (or spice) war is at the center of Dune

The driving force behind almost everything that happens in Dune is spice. As I mentioned above, it’s a substance that greatly enhances human ability. However, it’s also very addictive and once someone starts taking it, they’ll die without it. Another reason that control of it is so important.

Reading Dune, I couldn’t help but think that it was just a drug war set in space and wrapped in the trappings of a messiah story. Sure, Paul is the savior of his people, but the whole reason they’re being repressed is for control of a drug. The entire galaxy is a bunch of junkies looking to make sure they can get their next fix. 

Considering that it was written in the 1960s, I wouldn’t be surprised if “spice” was inspired by acid, mushrooms, or any of the other mind-altering drugs that were so prevalent during that era. The way that spice is described as expanding the mind and allowing the user to see connections and pathways that they couldn’t see before sounds really similar to how stoners talk about drugs. I’m sure that fans of the series won’t appreciate my take on Dune just being a romanticized drug war story, but that’s how it came across to me.

Classic sci-fi novel or not, I couldn’t help but feel a bit bored by Frank Herbert’s Dune

An intergalactic drug war doesn’t necessarily make for a bad story. Ruthless warlords, terrifying space monsters, and a larger-than-life destiny sound like a great read. Except Dune was really boring. I would be reading a scene and part of my brain would say “This is a charged and exciting scene” but the writing just didn’t convey it. Herbert’s style was very dry, and the characters all felt remote and removed from the scenes. It made it impossible to get into the story or connect to the characters. And without a connection to the characters, I didn’t care all that much about what was happening to them.

Overall, this story had a lot of potential, but it fell flat of really being a great tale. I know that it has a very dedicated following, but I just can’t see what makes it so incredible to them. Perhaps some people will be so into the political side of the story that they won’t need the character connections that drive interest for me. Or maybe they’ll feel a closer connection than I did. Some people do enjoy slower-moving stories. But this just wasn’t a book for me.

My Rating: 6/10

Dune by Frank Herbert and the rest of the series of novels are available most places books are sold . Let us know on social media @Mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you have read this novel before and what you think of it! And don’t miss Dune: Part 2, coming to theaters March 1!

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Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

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