Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune

Dune is the story of a boy, Paul Atreides, and his growth to manhood on the planet Arrakis, the desert planet that gives the book its title. Arrakis was granted to Paul’s father, Duke Leto Atreides, taken from its previous holder Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. The Harkonnen and the Atreides are old enemies, and its the Baron’s intention to destroy the Atreides. Not very long after their arrival, Paul and his family find that Arrakis has been set up as a trap. They are betrayed by one of their own, a man they were sure they could trust. Paul and his mother, Jessica, end up taking refuge with the planets indigenous people, the Fremen. Paul learns the ways of the Fremen with the ultimate aim of revenge on the Harkonnen.

The major characters are well handled, particularly Paul and his struggles to handle his prescience and come to terms with the possible futures it shows him. His mother, Jessica, is also well handled. A member of the Bene Gesserit order, she becomes a Reverend Mother to the Fremen and a valued counsellor. Minor characters are also well drawn: Gurney Halleck and Thufir Hawat, Paul’s teachers and Stilgar, a Fremen leader – all are clearly defined people. Nobody is two-dimensional in this story.

Some science fiction doesn’t age well. Dune was first published 50 years ago, in 1965. It holds the attention now as much as it did then. A real classic of the genre.

Dune was adapted as a film in 1984 and, in the opinion of fans of the book, the film was a stinker. Established actors like Patrick Stewart, Freddie Jones and Sian Phillips, were able to bounce back from the flop. It almost killed Kyle MacLachlan’s career. It was a mistake to try to cram a story of this scope into 137 minutes (the extended version is just over 3 hours). ThisĀ  is a film to avoid. I don’t know anything about the TV adaptations.

2 Comments

  1. I saw the movie and loved it. I liked that it wasn’t polished and had that weird combo like a B movie. I want to check out the book and read it as I have been told it’s a great read and a classic.

    Books are usually better than movies anyway, what rating out of 5 would you give this book and is this a lengthy book?

    1. Dune is about 600 pages long in paperback. If you like science-fiction, its a good one. I’d rate it about 4.5 out of 5. It’s not perfect, but it its very good. The book has cult status among sci-fi fans, which is why you’ll often hear such people criticizing the film. I’d give the film no more than 6 out of 10. There are many aspects of the film that don’t fit in with the book. Kyle McLachlan was miscast as Paul (too big and too old); the Mentats weren’t a special race, just specially trained; the rainfall at the end was out of place… If you enjoyed the film, that’s great. Just be prepared for large differences with the book.

      Which version did you see? When the film was released the running time was 137 minutes. There’s also an extended cut (177 minutes) and a special edition (190 minutes). I’m not sure a longer film would necessarily be a better film, given some of my criticisms above. I haven’t seen the film since it was released in 1984 and I’d be interested to see what the special edition adds to the original.

      Yes, books usually are better than film adaptations. I can only think of two execeptions, both of which improve by cutting unnecessary sub-plots: The Named of the Rose and The Bourne Identity. The Dune novel beats the film hands down, IMO. I think you should definitely check it out.

      (Apologies for any typos. I’m suffering optic neuritis and have trouble seeing the keyboard and reading the screen.)

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