Hugo Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

This is the third time that I have read the first book of Dune by Frank Herbert, and the first time that I was tempted to continue to read. In fact if I wasn't in the middle of a large project I would continue to read. Much of this is simply that I read the beginning more carefully. For some reason the first thing that I remember from the last time I read the book was the Harkonnen attack. Since this is about a third of the way through the book I can honestly say I missed a lot.

This time though I really enjoyed it. The world itself is as well designed as any that I have ever seen. From the plants and animals to the people who live in it and the many political factions it feels as if you know everything about this world, and while it might not be as alien as some worlds it is an interesting place to explore.

Among the many thing that struck me was that it seems clear that George Lucas has read Dune. There are a lot of things in Star Wars that can be connected to dune. Tatooine as a desart world is the most obvious of course, with moisture farming existing in both. This is not the only connection though. The Jedi themselves feel a fair amount like the Bene Gesserite and the Spacing Guild with things like the ability to control people wit their voices control their physical bodies and having limited visions of the future. This is the way of all science and all science fiction with ideas being built on other ideas and one of the things that makes this such as interesting book and the genre itself so great. Ideas can build and grow becoming something better because of those that go before them.

While the world building of Dune is great the story itself is pretty simple. You have two royal families in a feud. House Atreides takes over Dune, one of the most important planets in the galaxy from house Harkonnen. Except that taking it over is a trap and house Harkonnen attacks nearly wiping out Atreides in the process and forcing the Duke's son Paul and his mother escape into the desert to live with the Fremen, people who live in the desert. He trains them to fight and uses them to regain the power of his family.

This misses a huge amount of very interesting points, but almost all of those are the characters and the politics not the story itself. For example, the idea of the prison planet being the best place to train troops, the backroom politics of the Emperor, the smugglers and more.

In many ways this has more in common with a lot of epic fantasy than the typical science fiction story. With the hero’s journey, people who are practically able to do magic, and the science while important is never really explored all that much because it is really only important in the ways that it makes the story work better.

This is a great story and one that never felt dated and it is one of the few Hugo award winning books that I have read which I would recommend to people outside of it being a classic book simply because it is a lot of fun to read.