"Dune" by Frank Herbert

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The galactic Emperor had a hidden agenda when he ordered House Atreides to move to the Arrakis, replacing House Harkonnen as the planet's ruling family. Arrakis is a desolate wasteland covered almost entirely in desert, earning it the nickname "Dune"; but Arrakis is the only source of the spice melange - the most valuable substance in the universe.

Duke Leto Atreides's teenage son Paul is beginning to manifest mystical powers that will aid him in the coming battles and betrayals and in his fight for survival on a hostile planet.

Frank Herbert's classic novel Dune is the most complex science fiction novel I have read. In addition to an adventure story and a coming-of-age novel, the book includes insights into politics, sociology, ecology, economics, religion, philosophy, and language. Nearly every dialogue is layered with multiple meanings and nearly every action is a potential betrayal.

Herbert does an amazing job building the world of Arrakis and its people.

Among the creations of the book are:

-Sand Worms - giant tubular creatures that live beneath the surface of the desert sand, as sea dragons might swim in the ocean, breaching the surface from time to time to wreak havoc on protection of the spice.

  • The Bene Gesserit - a cultlike group with impressive mental powers, who strive to produce a superhuman via their secret breeding program.
  • The Fremen - a mysterious nomadic race that live in the deserts of Dune and have a special relationship with the sand worms.
  • Mentats - humans with the ability to think like computers

Although Dune is set centuries in the future, technology has not advanced at the rate one would expect. Advancements have been stunted by humanity's distrust of artificial intelligence and a war fought centuries earlier. Things like interplanetary travel have been made possible by the powers of the Bene Gesserit and the Mentats and the mind-expanding abilities of melange.

The local water scarcity, the global spice monopoly, and the struggle for control between powerful factions serve as a metaphor for similar constrained resources and conflicts on the Earth of today and the effect on global politics. The vast sand oceans and the Fremen people are not far removed from the 20th and 21st century Middle East.

Through it all is Paul - son of a Duke and gifted with great powers that lead others to perceive him as a Messiah. How he uses those powers defines him and defines the power structure of the galaxy.

This was my third reading of this novel, which I first discovered in my late 20s. After all these years, it still holds my interest.