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  • Dune
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on June 13, 2004
Dune is one of the deepest science fiction books of its time, you'd never really guess that it was written about 50 years ago. It tells of a boy named Paul who is destined to become the religious leader of the Fremen, the native dwellers of Arrakis. The politics and religious aspect in Dune are very well balanced and the characters are quite realistic for a sci-fi. If you're into sci-fi or not, you really should read this book.
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Not much more can be said about this book than has already been said. I finally read it after countless recommendations and putting it off for years. I was skeptical that it would be as good as everyone said it is, but it is. Frank Herbert shows himself to be a keen observer of human nature, political intrigue and conspiracy, religion, and the depths and variations of human emotion. His characters are believable and range from psychopathic and ruthless, to morally weak and conformist, to courageous and authentic. Complex, expansive, moving, and exceedingly well written. I can't wait to finish the series.
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on September 11, 2002
One of the greatest science fiction epics ever written. This book has it all: mind-expanding drugs, human computers, political intrigue, interstellar economics, and big-... worms. The reader should take from this book a sense of grandness of scale. The messianic fervor of the Fremen, the calculated patience of the Bene Gesserit eugenics program, the ecological ambition of Liet Kynes, and the universal-historical vision of the Quisatz Haderach, all ought to awaken us to the necessity and danger of human activity on the universal-historical timescale. That is the scale on which we all operate, whether we know it or not. Some of the themes in this book, which was written in the mid-1960's, foreshadow the adolescent field of chaos theory. In particular, the notion that seemingly insignificant local events can have calamitous effects on future history is analogous to the butterfly effect. Also, Herbert's conception of prophecy as a probability tree branching infinitely through time enjoys some endorsement from quantum physics.
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on August 16, 2015
Wonderful read.

The good: Good pacing, Frank Herbert is a very good storyteller, and Dune - his magnum opus - is no exception. Characters you want to win, villains you find disgusting, and all the intrigue and mysticism you could ever ask for are prevalent in Dune (and the sequels!) There is a reason Dune is considered the LoTR of Sci-Fi, because it will take you on an epic adventure packed with space ships, new tech nobody has shown you before, and radically different social structures in an epic spanning thousands of pages when it is said and done. As a Sci-Fi I cannot recommend this book enough.

The bad: The first 100 pages or so really cram a lot of new, foreign stuff at you. For some this can alienate the reader from the universe as they try to grasp these concepts. I know people who have put the book down due to this. I would say keep going if you are finding yourself not understanding concepts. It gets better, and when you reflect on what you read earlier once you are farther in the book, it all comes together in a brilliant way.

The neutral: Very long book can go either way for people, at almost 900 pages and the sequels coming close to it, you are in for a long ride.
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on February 16, 2010
Dune is a wonderful book. It completely engrosses the reader, giving one an experience similar to the one which the human characters experience in the Avatar film when they are inside the world of their avatars on the planet. When you stop reading, it's like coming out of the avatar pod into the real world, you can't wait to enter the world of dune again. Dune is also a fascinating study of desert ecology, water conservation, and how desert dwellers (including humans) adapt to their environment. It is also a reprimand to humanity for becoming too dependant on technology, robotics (robots) and machinery, and forgetting how to take care of themselves. As well as a lesson that teaches us that city dwellers have become estranged from the environment (nature) and became maladapted to surviving, to say nothing of living outside their cities with all their environmental and plush residential fluff. (while reading this review, mind that the book was originally published in 1965, Herbert seems to have foreseen the ecological problems, and technological advances of today!) Dune
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on July 16, 2004
but strangely short--given the first book's gargantuan size. The book also seems as tho' it didn't have Herbert's full attention. He seemed tacitly to admit this once when he said that "parts of Children of Dune were written before Dune was finished." It also suffers from the fact that it was first serialized in a SF magazine. It seems as tho' it were "remixed" after the fact.
Although Herbert continues to use the Prophet Mohammad's life as a scaffolding for his story, he departs widely from the Koran's account while still retaining an essentially Arab flavor to the story. (These books are, by the way, incredibly popular in the Muslim world.)
Those minor criticims aside, the story continues towards its headlong conclusion in the Golden Path. To say much more would spoil it for the uninitiated. If you liked Dune, read this one just to get to "Children" and, the piece de resistance, "God Emperor of Dune" where Herbert's mastery becomes complete and the Golden Path is revealed to us in all its terrible majesty.
The last two books before cancer and grief killed him were almost after thoughts. After Leto II, what was there to say?
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on September 30, 2003
In 1965, short-story author Frank Herbert hit it big with DUNE, the sci-fi masterpiece that went on to become a legend. With DUNE MESSIAH, Herbert continues the saga of Paul Atreides, also known as Muad'Dib, the man who saved a dying planet from destruction.
Set 12 years after the first novel, DUNE MESSIAH centers around the fact that Paul is not immune to human emotions and is, as are we all, flawed. Now ruling the universe as Emperor, Paul is re-awakening the planet of Arrakis (or Dune) and continuing as he had planned; however, corruption still has it's effect. As Paul confronts his inner self, a group of conspirators have assembled who seek to dethrone the young leader.
Old friends return and new enemies are made; the fitting conclusion sets the stage for the third book in the series, CHILDREN OF DUNE, which was published six years later.
It is clear that author Herbert now feels more free to work with his ideas; the book's vocabulary level has decreased from the level of DUNE, while there is also a fair amount of sexuality thrown in - which was almost absent from the first book. The major flaw of the novel, however, is that Herbert's masterfully complex universe seen in DUNE now doesn't feel so realistic; it takes down the believability of the story a bit, whilst in DUNE you couldn't help but feel that the events of the story were sure to occur.
On a closing note, DUNE MESSIAH is no doubt inferior to DUNE, but that doesn't mean it's a bad novel. It is still a fine follow-up in what is certainly the greatest sci-fi series ever written.
ENDING THEME: May not be the messiah we're looking for, but still an engulfing piece of sci-fi history
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on October 14, 2006
I will surely burn but I have to say it; "DUNE" stands head and shoulders above LOTR. LOTR is good but it is predictable. Dune has much more detailed and it's scope wider. Certainly, "Dune" is the harder read but much more worthwhile. This book digs much deeper into the nature of humanity, its goals, its weaknesses, strengths, and the nature of religions.

Comparing the books is, however, like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, they are both fruits, both are round-ish, both are tasty, and both grow on trees but they are very different. One book is about a quest and the battle between good and evil. The other is about the battle between humans who are both good and evil at the same time. It is a book about "wheels within wheels" that exist in each of our natures and in our society. Dune is amazing and worthy of reading twice or three times to see the layers.
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on June 30, 2012
I enjoyed this book quite a lot but for me it fell short of the `masterpiece' hype that surrounds it. There is drama, tension and mystery. But the characters were not fully created. The main character, Paul Atreides, is treated in heroic terms, and doesn't seem completely real to me. But perhaps I was asking too much. It is well worth reading, just as a classic of the genre.
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on March 8, 2014
This is a long review, but Frank Herbert’s Dune is a long, rich book, and there’s a lot one can discuss.

For a few years I shied away from science fiction, probably because my main exposures to SF were poorly-written franchise novels. Recently, though, I discovered how rich and reflective "good" SF can actually be, and with this in mind I decided to tackle Herbert's Dune, which, as it says on its cover, is often hailed as "science fiction's supreme masterpiece".

The novel itself is divided into three Books that tell the story of Paul Atreides, heir to his father, Duke Leto Atreides. Originally, the Duke is governor of the planet Caladan, but is transferred to the desert planet Arrakis by his political rival the Baron Harkonnen. The move is ostensibly a promotion; the deserts of Arrakis are a vital and valuable source of spice, a potent but addictive substance that grants its users a kind of prescience and heightened mental activity. Of course, the Baron has ulterior motives, and much of the first Book deals with the Atreides family fending off his assassination attempts in the chaos of the move. Ultimately, despite their best efforts at security, the Atreides are betrayed from the inside, and a Harkonnen assault on the Atreides compound results in the capture and later the death of the Duke, and the re-establishment of a Harkonnen government on Arrakis. Paul and his mother, the Lady Jessica, escape into the desert, ending Book I.

What follows in the next two Books is the story of Paul’s life among the desert natives the Fremen—who come to accept him as some kind of demigod figure—his rise to a leader within their ranks, and, through some political maneuvering, a well-placed nuclear explosion, and a vicious ultimatum, to the heir of the galactic Imperial throne.

Aside from the story itself, Dune is well known for its ‘world-building’. The universe is rich with detail and history, some of which is included in appendices. Herbert’s style in this regard seems to be to mention many of these details somewhat off-hand, as if they were well-known within the universe. While this may frustrate some, it would feel like the immersion was weakened if the author stopped to explain every small detail. If this in-universe style is too much, there is also a thorough glossary of terms included. Moreover, while I haven’t read any of the sequels, it is obvious that there is a sprawling backstory (and future) to the events of Dune, especially the potential to delve into the various organizations in the universe, including the various Great Houses, the Imperial government, and the mysterious Bene Gesserit order. The latter brings me to my primary complaint with the book, and that is the essentially magic powers exhibited by both Paul and the Bene Gesserit, given that Dune seems to take place in the far future of our own (non-magical) universe.

As an aside, I find it interesting to contrast Dune with The Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle, which I also recently finished. Both novels have an Imperial government headed by an Emperor; in Dune, the Emperor is a shady figure with various criminal dealings and back room plots, whereas in Mote, the Emperor seems to be a typical military/political figure: tough but virtuous, and will sit down with his Admirals for a drink or two. It’s also interesting to note that in Dune, there is no intelligent alien life. While there are of course the famous sand worms of Arrakis, and some kind of societal distinction between man and human that is not fully developed, there are no extraterrestrials in the same sense as in Mote. Despite spreading across the galaxy, the humans of Dune have not encountered intelligent alien life even in the year ~10 000 AD, whereas First Contact in Mote occurs in 3017. Lastly, coffee in Dune is ubiquitous—so much so that even the rather spartan Fremen will indulge—while it is a rare commodity and a sign of wealth in Mote. Keeping details such as these in order was an exercise at times, and while it will probably only get worse as I read more SF, I think it worthwhile to maintain distinctions among various authors’ universes.

As mentioned, there are several sequels to Dune. The first six books penned by Frank Herbert himself are fairly well-regarded (though the same cannot be said for most of those by his son Brian), and I plan to read at least the next two at some point. I am especially interested in seeing the promised darker side of Paul that is only glimpsed in Dune when he manipulates the Fremen with his power as a religious icon and eventually gives in to his prescient visions of a jihad under the Atreides name.

Overall, Dune was a good novel, perhaps even a great one, and seems to be very important to the historical development of SF, but I don’t think I can agree with its mantle as “science fiction’s supreme masterpiece”, at least not while I’m still relatively new to the genre. Dune is quite consistently ranked #1 on lists of the top SF novels, but I expect a novel to be more than just “great” if it is to deserve these honours. I give Dune 4/5 stars, plus some bonus points for helping to shape the entire genre of science fiction.
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