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Book review: Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1) by Frank Herbert

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)Dune by Frank Herbert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This well-known science fiction book didn’t live up to the hype for me. The story itself is decent; there's a relatively suspenseful mix of religion, culture, politics, and military action. It's not your stereotypically lifeless, tech-heavy sci-fi. My problem was that Paul, Jessica, and the other characters are so different from me that I couldn't relate, so I didn't care what happened to them. The book was interesting enough that I finished it, but it wasn’t so great that I wanted to race through it or get to the sequels.

The book follows the boy Paul Atreides and his mother Jessica from their homeworld to the desert planet of Arrakis. Despite their alien origins, they assimilate to Arrakis’ culture and begin to discover the secrets of its spice and sandworms. The story spans years as Paul struggles to uncover and understand his ancestry, prescient powers, destiny, and potential demise.

The plot twists and turns as Paul and Jessica of the noble House Atreides deal with the rival House Harkonnen. Both houses question the allegiance and motives of those they encounter, always watching for treacherous backstabbers. Some of the prominent characters suffer surprise deaths, a welcome feature since protagonists and their allies are invulnerable in so many popular books.

I was struck by the broad vocabulary and detailed descriptions. I listened to the audiobook, but I could see the scenes in my mind like I was watching a movie. I even became thirsty hearing about the arid scarcity of the Arrakis and the severe scarcity of water. The cultures are well-fleshed-out, especially the Fremen.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook from BBC Audiobooks America, which had an excellent vocal cast! As a Star Wars fan, I recognized the influence of this book on George Lucas' films, including the desert planet, the giant worms, the desert dwellers, the mystical powers held by a secretive, elite class.

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