If I had never seen the first trailers of Dune, had never fallen absolutely in love with TimothÃ©e Chalamet and Zendaya as a sci-fi power couple, had never found myself strangely intrigued by the idea of ââgiant sand worms, I probably would never have found myself in online to order a copy of the original 1965 novel that started it all. And I certainly wouldn’t have found myself going through it weeks later, my brain tangling in knots over the plots complicated enough to cry (in plots, in plots) and intricate world-building.
Dune has more than deserved its place in the science fiction pantheon; it’s a masterpiece, don’t get me wrong. But for the first 50-100 pages, you’d be forgiven for wanting to get Frank Herbert out of his grave and begging him to explain WTF.
The simplest way to put it is that Herbert is not here to help you read his book. He created this elaborate universe, and if you want to go with you, okay, but there are no seat belts, no seat bars, and we don’t stop for bathroom breaks. In other words, this book seems impenetrable for the first hundred pages or so, and opening it is like being thrown in the middle of the ocean and being told to swim. He casually throws away terminology (mixture, mentats, Bene Gesserit) and historical events (“Butlerian Jihad” puzzled me for a long time) as if you already knew what they mean, and so much the better, because we are already moving on to next scene, please continue!
The construction of the world in Dune is gorgeous and wonderfully three-dimensional, to be clear. It’s just that you have to find out for yourself what’s going on, where you are, and what made this universe what it is. In this way, Dune is very different from today’s science fiction, where you typically don’t open a book and assume you’re going to struggle on your own for 100 pages. In reality, Dune looks less like contemporary sci-fi (focused on futuristic tech, space travel, aliens) than epic high fantasy, Game Of Thrones set in an intergalactic empire, with most detail lavished on family background, political maneuvering, and Herbert’s own reflections on philosophy and ecology.
“[Herbert] created this elaborate universe, and if you want to come for a ride, okay, but there are no seat belts, no seat bars, and we don’t stop for bathroom breaks. “
So why is this book still worth reading, even through the labyrinth of intrigue within storylines and learning world-building? Dune sucks you like quicksand, that’s why. If you get there early (add this glossary to your favorites, because you’ll need it) the rest of the book is a fascinating mix of battle sequences, desert escape scenes, prophetic trances, and worm rides. Sands. There is a dark hero arc, romance, and strong female characters who follow their own stories. Sometimes you forget that this book was published in the 60s because it is still as strange and fascinating today as I guess it was then. (One exception: The villain is also the only gay-inclined character in the book, which feels like a very old-school fantasy and not in a good way.) It’s a fascinating world, once you get the hang of it.
I actually read the following two Dune books (Messiah of the dunes and Children of Dune; say what you want from this series, but the titles to sing) and resigned myself to the fact that I will read the next three, TBD on the 14-ish (!) spin-offs. Dune is just the start of a whole sprawling mythology, and I didn’t expect to be so enthralled when I was 37 pages, ready to tear my hair out over how confusing it all was. This book is a challenge, but you won’t regret taking it.
Tips for reading Dune
Dune is known to be extremely complex, and it can be difficult to complete for those of us who are not used to this genre or style of writing (and even some who are). Here are some good practices that I used to read this book and its sequel, as a relatively newbie in the genre.
- The glossary is your new best friend. Tab it. Mark it. Put it on speed dial. Go back to it whenever there’s a word you don’t know, and when you forget that word and find it 200 pages later, reread the definition. As Herbert rarely defines words and events in the text, the book’s glossary is the only help you will get. You can also use online glossaries and terminology guides if your copy does not have a glossary included, and some are even more detailed and useful than the official. Reading a summary can also help, but beware of spoilers.
- Don’t get too caught up in the details. Some readers might disagree, but on your first reading of Dune, I think the most important thing is to understand the overall plot and the main characters. There are tons of little details, epigraphs before each chapter that may or may not make sense, philosophical tangents, and hundreds of years of fictional history behind the main plot, but trying to figure out every overwhelming detail will tire you out. . Focusing on the main plot points allowed me to gain a foothold in the world of the book, and as I felt more comfortable, all of the other details started to permeate.
- Prioritize understanding the words that come up the most. When you start this book, one of the hardest things is figuring out which details are really important. In the first three pages, for example, we learn about the Kwisatz Haderach, the gom jabbar, CHOAM, melange, Bene Gesserit and the Landsraad, none of which are explained in depth, each of which seems crucial in the opening scenes as well. . In fact, only a few of these terms are essential to understanding the plot. When you start this book, I recommend that you search for each term the first time you see it, but really prioritize understanding the words that come up over and over again. (Hint: âmixtureâ, âKwisatz Haderachâ and âBene Gesseritâ will be part of it.)
- Take notes if it helps. At the risk of doing too much homework, some people find it helpful to jot down this book or take notes to remember definitions, people, or important plot events. I didn’t do this on my first reading, but I think it would have helped me understand the book faster, or at least saved me a lot of glossary back-and-forth. This would be especially useful for keeping track of the plot, for example which characters know what plans and deceptions and which characters don’t, which was a big problem for me.
âYou think I am the Kwisatz Haderach,â he said. âGet that out of your mind. I am something unexpected. “. . .
“‘If you’re not the Kwisatz Haderach,’ Jessica said, ‘whatâ’
âYou can’t know,â he said. You won’t believe it until you see it. “
“And he thought, I am a seed.“
Read this if you like. . .
Complex sci-fi and high fantasy books with worlds you can get lost in.
How long does it take to read
I’m a quick reader, and took about two weeks with this one. It’s long (over 600 pages), dense, and complicated, so give yourself plenty of time to fully absorb the twisted plot and intricate details of the world.
The summary of the ideal place
When Paul Atreides and his family are forced to take over the planet Arrakis (aka Dune) and its stores of precious spices, they know it means their downfall. But as war breaks out against the evil House Harkonnen and Paul takes shelter in the desert with the native Fremen of Dune, he learns that his fate will extend far beyond Arrakis and be darker than it ever was. ‘could have imagined. that of Frank Herbert Dune ($ 12 for the paperback) is the start of this epic sci-fi saga.