Dune has long been a book that has attracted my attention, even before I realised it. When I was seven years old I learned to read with the aid of The Chronicles of Narnia and shortly afterwards The Hobbit. These fantasy novels inspired a love of reading and also a love of wonderful worlds and adventures, a love which was further fostered when at around the same age my parents introduced me to Star Wars. Such a science fiction concept with its space battles, heroic moments and general operatic drama thrilled me to no end. At the time I had no clue that one of the major sources of inspiration for Star Wars had been Frank Herbert's Dune.
So, years later I began to hunt out the inspirational science fiction works which inspired George Lucas in writing Star Wars. Which led me to a bunch of other good and not-so good books and films. Finally I came to Dune, perhaps the biggest inspiration in terms of the mix of science fiction and fantasy elements visible in Star Wars.
Unfortunately I wasn't as wowed by Dune as I hoped to be. There are fantastically wonderful science fiction ideas in the novel, but they seemed to be clustered and packed around a looser story than I like. In other words it was a novel that was slightly cluttered, for it is true that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.
I guess what I am saying is that I cannot deny the influence Dune has had on the genre as a novel but it's not one of the best novels I have read. It's often rated as the most powerful science fiction novel of all time, alongside Asimov's Foundation. But what I found is that a mixture of things did not quite make the perfect novel for me such as Frank Herbert's philosophical meanderings, the slower pace and as mentioned the additional clutter.
However, rather than talk on and on about what I disliked, let me talk about what I loved. Firstly I loved how Dune is essentially a novel all about one man, Paul Atreides, growing into his mystical destiny and becoming one of the natives of Arrakis or Dune. It was certainly one of the finer stories I have read about a man learning from the native tribes and becoming one of them - a story trope often copied by lesser world creators nowadays. I loved the extensive worldbuilding - the spice, the sandworms (makers), the technology, the drugs and the royal politics. I also loved the character of Paul himself, tortured and twisted as he was, he possessed a degree of depth.
I have to talk about what I disliked to a small degree though. I particularly disliked how the female characters existed in this world: either as scheming manipulators or as part of a harem, women there to look good. I also did not like the characterisation of the Baron Harkonnen and can only wonder whether Robert Jordan may have based many of his own characterisations on those presented by Frank Herbert. Because some of his weaker characterisations are remarkably similar to those seen here in Dune.
All in all I did strongly appreciate Dune, I just had the slightest of reservations about it in the end. And these reservations are what prevent me from pouring out my full love upon it. When everything is said it stands as a must read science fiction novel, for its influence and for what it is as a novel. For it is a brilliant mix of ideas, just not always ideas that are delivered 100 percent wonderfully.