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Frank Herbert

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi
Dune by Frank Herbert
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 10 March 2024
The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it.

Paul, son of Duke Leto Atreides, moves with his family from their home on the ocean bathed planet Caladan, to Arrakis, an inhospitable desert planet, of which they will take stewardship.

Arrakis, also known as Dune, is the only known source of the "Spice" Melange, a mysterious drug of immense importance to the empire. The Spice is everything to the empire; consumed to extend life, and ensure the Spacing Guild Navigators can continue providing safe, instantaneous interstellar travel, by folding space.

Leto accepts the stewardship of Arrakis, assigned by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, and takes over from the Harkonnens, a bitter rival house of the Atreides. Leto knows that while ruling over Arrakis, and controlling the flow of Spice is of upmost importance, he distrusts the Emperor's motives, given his fear that Leto is gaining too much popularity amoung the ruling class.

Not long after the Atreides arrive, their fears that not all is as it seems are realised. Political scheming, religious prophecy, and shocking revelation unfold as Paul confronts his destiny while at the centre of a battle for control of the Spice, and thus, the universe.

Herbert depicts a massive universe, filled with planets harsh in the extreme, and populations in the countless, yet on Arrakis' sparse and dangerous landscapes, we feel the infinitude of space, and power of nature.

Dune isn't a swashbuckling adventure, yet its action, violent or otherwise, is nail-biting. Its science fiction ideas are truly unique, with a paradoxical depiction of technological advancement. The computer-like Mentats, the mystical Bene Gesserit sisterhood and the mutant Guild Navigators each use enhanced cognitive abilities, rather than machines—which society has outlawed—to perform what appears to be magic.

Herbert's characters are complex, and despite their super-human conditions, their decisions are all too human in motivation, and tragic in consequence.