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). This is a film to avoid. I don’t know anything about the TV adaptations.