Book Review: Frank Herbert’s Dune & Dune Messiah

DuneOne of my favorite science fiction movies is Dune. The film is based on the popular book series by author Frank Herbert, and tells the story of Paul Atreides. Paul is a young man caught up in a political game he doesn’t yet understand, but finds himself having to quickly learn how to play the game in order to survive after the death of his father. In the synopsis according to Goodreads:

Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the “spice” melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe. The story explores the complex and multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis and its “spice”.

I first saw the 1984 version of the movie, which starred Kyle MacLachlan as Paul when I was little. The film was directed by David Lynch, and was an epic movie of how a young boy rose to power and achieved revenge for his father’s murder. Many years later, in 2000 to be exact, the SyFy channel got into the game with their own production. Most people find the 1984 version to be superior, and it probably is, but I liked the 2000 version more for its use of color to captivate the world of Arrakis. Why do I bring up these films when this is supposed to be a book review? Having watched both of these films multiple times, I thought I knew this story. While both films were somewhat loyal to the novel, I now find that this story is just too complicated to be told accurately on film.

“It is so shocking to find out how many people do not believe that they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.”

dune-0001Dune is a complex world with well thought out political and religious ideologies that are developed over the course of the series, and not just one book. Not only that, but there are other factors at work here. You have the messianic tale of Paul Atreides, the socio-economics of Arrakis, and the cultural aspects of the Bene Gesserits and Sardukar. Frank Herbert does a fantastic job of pulling the reader right into the story, and even though the novel was written in 1965, many of the themes are still relevent today.

Since I was so captivated by the first book, I decided to continue with the series. Is it just me, or does it seem like I’ve only been reading book series? Ugh! That was my thinking once I realized I have found yet another to invest my time. Book 2 in the Dune Chronicles is Dune Messiah. 

“They are not mad. They’re trained to believe, not to know. Belief can be manipulated. Only knowledge is dangerous.”

Dune MessiahDune Messiah continues the story of Paul Atreides / Maud’Dib who has now taken over as Emperor of the Empire. Torn between his duties as an Atreides, a Fremen, and as Maud’Dib the Messiah come to save Arrakis, Paul finds himself surrounded by enemies. This novel takes a look at what can happen when a ruler is held up by his people as a God. How can one act human if those around you see you as infallible? Like Dune, I had already seen this story on television when SyFY decided to combine this novel into Herbert’s 3rd, Children of Dune, in a TV movie of the same name in 2003. Though I had already felt I knew a little of the story, I found the book to be necessary since the tv movie covered this novel in the span of 1-2 hours, leaving the majority of the tale out of the film. Maybe it was because most of this book seemed so new to me, but I actually enjoyed Dune Messiah more than Dune. 

Paul Atreides is my favorite character in the series thus far, and I’m loving his journey from young “freak” to powerful messiah. However, since this is a messianic tale, I had a feeling things might not turn out the way I’d hope. The jury is still out. The majority of the characters from the first novel are still present, so it adds to the flavor of the saga. One of the aspects of the story I love is the comparisons being drawn between Paul and his sister Alia. Two powerful beings who have different viewpoints on their situation. Now that I’m half way through Children of Dune the story of the Atreides, the Fremen, and all the other colorful characters continues to intrigue me. I still have 3.5 books to go, but I’m dying to see how this epic saga ends.

Have you read Dune? If so, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this novel. Sound off in the comments below!

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