Dune by Frank Herbert

a review by Ant, in the genre(s) Science Fiction. Book published by The Folio Society in April 2015

It's hard to believe that Dune is over 50 years old. Originally released in 1965 it won the inaugral Nebula award for best novel and tied with Roger Zelazny's This Immortal for the Hugo Award.

It's sold well in excess of 12 million copies around the world and is one of the world's best-selling science fiction novels. Some critics have gone so far as to call it the best science fiction book ever written. Robert Heinlein said of it:

Powerful, convincing, and most ingenious.

The Chicago Tribune has called it:

One of the monuments of modern science fiction

It seems only fitting that those wonderful people at The Folio Society created an award winning bound and illustrated edition, published to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

This illustrious edition features an introduction by noted critic Michael Dirda and an afterword by the authors son Brian Herbert, an established writer who has continued his fathers legacy with additional novels. He also wrote a biography of Frank Herbert which was shortlisted for a Hugo award in 2004.

The eleven colour illustrations and black & white tailpieces have been created by award winning artist Sam Weber. It is set in Dante typeface along with Helvetica Neue and Black Tulip display.

This edition also features a wealth of additional information with a map and extensive appendices.

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Dune is set in the far future of a distant planet where a the nobel houses of a fuedal, byzantine intersteller society rule individual planets. The nobel family Atreides become stewards of the desert planet Arrakis, releasing control from the house Harkonnen. Arrakis is unique as the only known source of the "spice" Melange, a drug and the most valuable substance in the universe.

As a result, control of Arrakis is much sought after and dangerous and the story follows Duke Paul Atreides, a young member of the family. House Harkonnen doesn't take the loss well and through sabotage and treachery they cast the young Duke out into the planet's harsh environment to die.

Rather than roll over and die though Paul finds help with the Fremen, a tribe of desert nomads who are willing to help Paul retake control. Paul might not just be the heir to Atreides though, he might actually be the end product of a very long-term genetic experiment designed to breed a super human; he might be a messiah.

What grabs you right away about Dune is the scale, it's Epic in every sense. The descriptions of the planet and characters are vivid and sharp, evoking the imagination. Arthur C Clarke commented on it:

I know nothing comparable to it except Lord of the Rings

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It also features one of the most ruthless and evil of characters to have been immortalised in ink - Baron Vladmir Harkonnen, a cold-blooded killer and a wonderful antagonist. The world-building and the characterisation are quite astonishing, a complex, living, breathing universe.

There are many themes running through the story. Religion and politics play a large part, as does the destruction of the environment for commercial gain. It also explores the idea of the hero, the chosen one and problems that surround "destiny" and hero worship. 

Dune has remained hugely infuential in books, TV, film, comics, board games and computer games. I remember the 1992 video game of Dune and the far superior Dune 2 which set the benchmark for real-time strategy games. It is one of those few books that have influenced culture as a whole.

The Apollo 15 astronauts named a small crater after it in their 1971 mission to the moon.

in 1984, after a number of stalled attempts, a film was created based on the novel. Directed by David Lynch it was praised by the author but received a mixed reception. Personally I think it does the book justice and is a classic. 

The director John Harrison adapted the story for a TV mini-series in 2000 for the Sci-Fi Channel which went on to become one of the three highest rated series on the channel.

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50 years on and Dune has lost none of it's power or it's potency. Simply incredible, timeless fiction that deserves the attention The Folio Society have lavished upon it.

Written on Wednesday 9th August 2017 by .

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Dune, a novel by Frank Herbert

Book Details

  • Dune
  • Publisher: The Folio Society
  • ISBN:
  • Published:
  • Pages: 576
  • Format reviewed: Hardback
  • Review date: August, 2017
  • Language: English
  • Age Range: