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    Get Your Read On

    Title: Dune (563 pages)
    Author: Frank Herbert
    Published: 1965

    What J.R.R. Tolkien did for the fantasy genre when he published the Lord of the Rings saga, Frank Herbert did for science fiction with Dune. Herbert has created a world apart: a world where there are different rules, both natural and manmade; a world where water is the most valuable commodity; a world that resembles our own in some ways and departs from it entirely in others. Dune is a tour de force.

    This book tells the story of Paul Atreides, a young boy of 15 who must become a man far ahead of his time. His mother, member of an ancient order of highly-trained women, unwittingly births him to be the final link in an enduring chain of breeding and selection intended to produce the Kwisatz Haderach ‘- or ‘the chosen one,’ to simplify. Paul, who is eventually to become Muad’Dib, adheres to his fate with nary a question. He understands that he has a ‘great and terrible’ destiny, and does not shirk his duty. Just as in Lord of the Rings, this sense of fantastic purpose is the strongest driving force behind the story.

    Each chapter in Dune is preceded by an excerpt from one of the many works of the Princess Irulan, mostly biographical works on Muad’Dib, such as ‘Manual of Muad’Dib’ and ‘A Child’s History of Muad’Dib.’ Although the princess is hardly a major character herself, the reader is led to believe she has researched Paul’s life at a time after the conclusion of the novel. She may, therefore, figure more prominently in the numerous sequels in the Dune series. Her excerpts are often articulate, and always insightful:

    You have read that Muad’Dib had no playmates his own age on Caladan ‘hellip; But Muad’Dib did have wonderful companion-teachers. There was Gurney Halleck, the troubodour-warrior. You will sing some of Gurney’s songs as you read along in this book. There was Thufir Hawat, the old Mentat Master of Assassins, who struck fear even into the heart of the Padishah Emperor. There were Duncan Idaho, the Swordmaster of the Ginaz; Dr. Welling Yueh, a name black with treachery but bright in knowledge; the Lady Jessica, who guided her son in the Bene Gesserit Way, and ‘- of course ‘- the Duke Leto, whose qualities as a father have long been overlooked.

    Coming to the planet Dune, Paul, his family, and his companions encounter a desert the likes of which they have never seen before. Paul’s father is quick to understand that they must harness what he calls ‘desert power’ in order to maintain an edge against the Harkonnen, enemies of the Atreides house. Treachery forces Paul into the desert, where he seeks out the native Fremen, and learns their way of life in order to survive, and, eventually, revenge himself upon the Empire (not the same as in Star Wars). His journey through his late adolescent years transforms Paul into the venerable Muad’Dib, and empowers him to seek out his destiny.

    Dune has a full glossary in the back, which you will find yourself using quite frequently if you choose to explore this literary treasure. Many of the terms that Herbert uses will be entirely foreign at first, as they are of his own creation and are unique to the Dune universe. This feature lends a degree of reality to the story, and is definitely a welcome addition.

    Though a bit long, this novel is certainly worth consideration. It is an essential read for any science fiction fan, and I’d wager it will be thoroughly enjoyed by someone new to the genre as well. Have fun.

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