I read Frank Herbert’s Dune for the first time around the same time I read Lord of the Rings so more than 20 years ago. I read what were two volumes in French quite fast and enjoyed the story a lot, in a very different way. As I re-read it for this challenge I’m sure I noticed things I didn’t the first time around but I also realized some elements remained with me in terms of my own attempts at writing.
For those who have never picked up the book – if you exist 😜 – Dune follows Paul Atreides’s journey from being a Duke’s son in exile to deposing the Emperor and marrying his daughter. It’s hard to describe this story in one sentence because it’s filled with so much.
Paul is part of a genetic program led by the order of the Bene Gesserit to which his mother belongs, and he becomes what their ultimate goal was: the kwisatz haderach, the super-being, he who can be in several places at the same time. Really what it is about is seeing the future, which Paul can do but he’s limited in his control of the outcomes. Throughout the book he foresees the Djihad and no matter what he does he can’t seem to prevent it. That’s one element that remained with me whenever I do write about the power to see the future – I’m working on 2 stories with that underlying theme: the future is changing whenever a choice must be made so it’s fraught with danger to try and change it.
There’s a heavy critic of industrialization at the expense of nature and of mankind. AI is clearly frowned upon as there was a time when artificial intelligence tried to wipe out humans.
Then on Arrakis Dr. Kynes the planetologist is definitely the voice of what ecology would be today. In a world where water is a rarity it does make us think about what can or can’t be done, or maybe should and shouldn’t.
Paul also proves different from his father: in a way Leto Atreides is almost naive but also could be a positive force in the world. He cares about people more than money, he is just and is doomed. He carries a name filled with history: Leto was a Titan, mother of Artemis and Apollo who had to wander long before she found a place to give birth since Hera had caused all lands to shun her. The Duke is also shunned: exiled from his home planet he is unwelcome on the one that’s being thrust upon him. Atreides refers to the family of Agamemnon and Menelas, the former being betrayed and killed by his wife Clytemnestre and her lover. The latter was married to Helene of Troy and we know how well that went. So a predestined name for the Duke.
Paul on the other hand is told several times by Gurney that his father would have cared more about the people than about the machines, the material or the spice… where is father is kind and gentle, Paul in his exile has become hardened to a certain number of things.
There are the underlying themes of religion and eugenics of course, which are at the core of what and who Paul is and becomes…
A world and a story that are rich with more than just a Messiah; Paul realizes that by assuming his place, he will unleash the Djihad on the world and not necessarily save it.
I guess the only disappointment is the lack of charisma and volume of the bad guys. The Harkonnens are all in all just plain despicable with no redeeming quality and I’ve come to appreciate a multi-faceted villain. It lacks here.
I read somewhere that Dune is to scifi what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. I haven’t read enough scifi to make that call but I sure enjoyed re-discovering the book, its myth, its worlds and adventures.