Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Book Review: 'Dune' by Frank Herbert

Did I find Dune immensely entertaining - definitely yes.
Did I find its commentary on politics, faith, organized religion & symbolism to cold war political gridlock profound & thought provoking - definitely no.

Dune is an 800 pages worth of action-packed story line, intriguing, multi-dimensional characters, quite a few interesting science fiction concepts and a fair bit of symbolism.

About 20,000 years in the future when this story takes place, human civilization is a multi-layered, socio-political structure. There are royal houses vying with each other for controlling various human-habitable planets (sort of like Game of Thrones in space), there is a matriarchal group wishing to engineer human species via controlled breeding and an independent organization that has sole monopoly over space travel. All of these entities, which are always at political odds with each other are kept at bay by a central ruler/arbiter, who is called an emperor.

And then, there is the desert planet "Arrakis" or Dune! It is the sole place in the entire universe where humans have found "melange" - a special "spice" that drives light-speed space travel, limited prescience & even enhances biological processes.

If all of this sounds like a Hollywood action movie or an HBO drama on a fat budget, then that is exactly what Dune is. 
Fun, action-fueled entertainment.

However, if you go by the online reviews and dive into the book looking for a philosophical discussion about organized religion & intricacies of politics & faith, then I guarantee you that you will be disappointed as I was.
Granted that there are some thought-provoking discussions about extremism and using religion to mobilize a people, but I feel, the book tries too hard to sell itself as something it is just not.

All the obviously middle eastern sounding names, the similarity that anyone can draw between the special substance "melange" with 20th century oil crisis is sort of off-putting. And I feel, for a story which is essentially about good science fiction action-drama, all the political undertones, frankly, seem unnecessary.

All in all, a strong thumbs up with adjusted expectations.

No comments: