Spoiler-Free Review: Dune

No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero

Author: Frank Herbert

If you go into Dune expecting it to be pulp scifi where the larger than life heroes have to take down the evil galactic empire, Dune will disappoint you. Dune has more in common with Shakespeare than Flash Gordan.

Dune is a novel about politics, murder, betrayal, revenge, freedom, profit, leadership and true heroism… and spice.

Paul is young, but he just might be the Kwisatz Haderach, a prophesied savior. There are just two problems: 1. Paul’s mother, being part of a centuries-long breeding program, was supposed to have a girl, not a boy. 2. The Kwisatz Haderach isn’t supposed to be born yet.

Paul’s mother, the Lady Jessica, always believed in her son and trained him in the skills he would need, controlling fear, reading the subconscious cues people give off, and other important skills any good “chosen one” needs to have. She is Paul’s rock and mentor.

But not his only mentor. Dear old Dad, Duke Leto Atreides, taught Paul the key responsibilities and duties of true leadership. He taught Paul how the political games are played and the value of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

When the family moves to the planet Dune, the only source of a valuable mineral commonly called “Spice,” Leto knows the Barron Harkonnen will use this to his advantage. He will try something to bring down House Atreides and Leto will have to use all his wits to keep his family safe.

Leto is a great leader! Water is very rare on Dune. Leto learns of a custom that the rich ceremoniously wash their hands before a feast and the moist hand towels sold to the poor. He immediately calls for an end to the practice and announces that any beggars who come to the castle during their feasts will be given a cup of water. I love Leto! It’s easy to see why his people follow him, and why they are willing to side with him over someone as powerful as the Barron.

One of my favorite moments is when Paul and his mother flee from Harkonnen’s troops and end up with the Fremen. There’s this moment with the Fremen leader where he’s taking Paul under his wing, and you can tell we’re about to jump a few years in the future so Paul can grow up. In any other work, the other side of that time jump, Mom would have a married this Fremen leader. Instead, he turns to Jessica and says “I should like friendship with you … and trust. I should like that respect for each other which grows in the breast without demand for the huddling of sex.”

I laughed out loud when I read this because I fully expected that they would be a couple. So that was a nice surprise. Thank you! Thank you, Frank Herbert, for recognizing that men and women can be allied in a cause without the need for sex!

If you’re a fan of Scfi and strongly recommend Dune. Dune is something of a deconstruction of the Hero’s Journey. It is a hero’s journey story, but it addresses the fact that going through this kind of life and death struggles as a teenager is going to permanently affect you. Paul is the “chosen one” sure, but he’s still just a man. Even though he is the Kwisatz Haderach, can any man have the wisdom to wield absolute power?

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