Is Frank Herbert’s Dune a timeless masterpiece or beyond boring?
The 1965 novel, often referred to as “soft” science fiction, is back among the bestsellers, thanks to the blockbuster 2021 movie. The book is the first of six novels that Herbert wrote. Devoted fans read the books over and over, but many say they find the reading tedious.
Set thousands of years in the future when humans have colonized other planets, the action takes place on Arrakis, a desert world with–of course–sand dunes and Melange, a spice that extends life and sharpens mental acuity. (Herbert had become familiar with sand dunes when he lived in Florence, Oregon.)
Giant sand worms protect the spice and Duke Leto Atreides and his family come to Arrakis to rule the valuable planet. His rival is Baron Harkonnen. Leto (and eventually his son Paul) enlists the help of the Fremen, desert natives. These are feudal societies and the weapons during duels are swords and knives, not lightsabers.
Back to the opening question. I found the book a chore to read, sometimes laden with cumbersome dialogue and narrative. Herbert created an intriguing planet in Arrakis, but some characters felt more than a world away from being people I cared much about. Highlights were Paul’s duels and the stories about his lifelong training to be a leader and the best fighter in the universe. The sand worms added excitement and I am looking forward to seeing how they are created in the film. For me, Dune was hardly ”beyond boring,” but not a masterpiece either.
I admit my science-fiction reading aptitude is below par. So, I say, give the book a chance if you haven’t already. It is worth the journey and if you are a sci-fi aficionado, you have likely read the entire series more than once. For the rest of us, it might help to refer to a synopsis occasionally to avoid getting lost.
Now, on to the new film, streaming for $25. Will it be better than the book?