Dune, by Frank Herbert: The Greatest Story Ever Written!
One obsessed fan’s justification for such a claim.
By Steven J. Guscott
Have you ever read a Science-Fiction or Fantasy story that feels like it’s real and not fiction at all?
I really hope you have. I hope you have been so captured by the characters that you laugh with them, cry with them, and know them as well as you do a friend, or perhaps even better. I hope you’ve been so immersed and drowned in the fictional world that to you it feels like you exist there as an observer and it’s not fiction at all. I hope the themes, concepts and philosophies speak to your heart, mind and soul so that you discover new ideals and beliefs, and learn about your own nature, character and being.
If you have, you will understand what I’m talking about. If not, you will think I’m vocalising this to someone as they write while my straightjacket keeps me warm. With the level of fandom you’re about to read maybe that should be the case, but if nothing else this level of crazy is always fun to read so I hope you enjoy this piece.
The truth is that whether the description above is something you can personally relate to or not, we are all familiar with it. It only takes a quick glance at the impacts of such stories as The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and yes, even, Twilight, to get some insight into what I’m talking about.
So, as you can already guess from the title, the one story that has affected me in the way I have described is Frank Herbert’s, Dune, and the six book series it is the first of. It is slightly embarrassing to confess that I could easily write a dissertation/thesis on the reasons I love Dune so much, but for the sake of your sanity I will stick to six reasons for my obsession.
But before I begin, I’ve realised that you’re probably asking yourself, ‘Why exactly is this guy writing about his love for Dune? And why should I read this?’
Well, let me answer quickly. Firstly, I’m writing this because it’s fun to share a passion with fellow readers and writers. But primarily I’m writing to give you something that is hopefully beneficial to you in some way, whether that’s because this is the day you discover Dune for yourself, or because you love Dune too and we can share the experience, or this might be of worth because you hate Dune (‘Inconceivable,’*) and want to laugh at the weird guy sharing his illogical love for it. Whatever the case, I hope this is entertaining and beneficial in some way.
Now I’ve justified my reasoning for this madness it’s time to give you the six reasons why I feel Dune is the best story ever created.
Reason 1: Detail
The level of detail is mind crushing, and why I think many people get turned away from Dune on their first read. Even after ten readings of Dune, and multiple readings of the other books, I still pick up on many new things I didn’t notice before. Although this can be daunting with the first read, once you get a better grasp on the basic set up, political structures and concepts it becomes a beautiful world to bathe yourself in. It’s an incredible experience to read something so extensive.
Reason 2: Characters
There are so many distinct and memorable characters to enjoy. Again, this can be a challenge on the first read as a few minor ones can blend together. For those who have read it before have you ever got confused between, Yueh, Gurny, and Hawat? I did even after a couple of reads. However, the main characters really captured me and garnered my intrigue, sympathy, and empathy. Here are three tiny profiles of some interesting characters.
Paul Atreides (Paul Muad’Dib)
Paul is the main character in Dune. His journey from youth to manhood is truly unique amongst stories. Here is a basic description of Paul’s initial journey and the catalyst for all that follows: Paul is taken from his home world of comfort to the harsh desert planet of Dune. Here he learns what it means to grow and adapt in place were opposition reigns.
Jessica is Paul’s mother and watches over her son like a lioness. However, she is in constant conflict between doing what she’s been taught is right, and what she believes is right for her son.
The Baron, Vladimir Harkonnen
The Baron is the arch enemy of Paul and Paul’s father Leto. The Baron is such a layered evil character. What I find interesting about him is he is both ruthless and patient. His schemes to destroy the Atreides house and family are brilliantly planned and true to his lust for power. His character makes for fascinating reading.
There are so many wonderfully detailed and unique characters, but I better stop and move on to the next reason I love Dune.
Reason 3: Creativity and Originality
Hands down there is nothing I have seen or read that is so original, new, and different in its concepts and setting, and yet, at the same time, so familiar and human in its story and soul.
Reason 4: Philosophy
Throughout Dune there are so many references to philosophy, religion, ideology, and a spectrum of perspectives that are very enlightening. From the relatively basic juxtaposition of emotion against logic, to the vast perspective of time and space, there is so much to increase your perspective on, well, just about everything and anything. Here are some quotes from Dune that show this.
This is probably one of the most recognised. It’s known as the Litany against Fear, ‘I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear…’ Dune, Frank Herbert.
‘To attempt an understanding of Muad’Dib without understanding his mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, is to attempt seeing Truth without Falsehood. It is to attempt to see the Light without knowing Darkness. It cannot be.’ Dune, Frank Herbert.
‘What do you despise? By this you are truly known.’ Dune, Frank Herbert.
‘We came from Caladan – a paradise world for our form of life… …And the price we paid was the price men have always paid for achieving a paradise in this life – we went soft, we lost our edge.’ Dune, Frank Herbert.
‘At the age of fifteen, he had already learned silence.’ Dune, Frank Herbert.
I have only touched the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing philosophy and quotes from Dune, remember there are five other books full of such food for thought. If you like this sort of thing Dune is the book for you.
Reason 5: Politics
This also links to detail. The level of intergalactic politics that occurs is vast. There are six main factions seeking for power, control and/or influence. If you like some political intrigue and power struggles in your stories Dune ticks this box very well and is a reason I love it so much.
Reason 6: Inspiration
Art often inspires art. I know as I have written stories I have drawn from Dune subconsciously, and at times consciously as homage. Recently I wrote a twenty thousand word Novella that is mostly Greek Mythology themed, but some of the story has been inspired by Dune and Frank Herbert. Dune continues to inspire me every day in my life and in my stories.
Well, there you have it. Six reasons why I think Dune is not just the best Science Fiction story, but the best story ever created. Obviously such things are subjective and if you are not a fan, ‘may thy knife chip and shatter…’ …I’ve just hung my head in shame for being that much of a fan I can whimsically quote something like that from Dune. It’s pretty sad, but as you can tell Dune has had an incredible impact on my life. I hope you have a story that has impacted you in this same way, even if it is Twilight. Please feel free to pay tribute to any such story by telling us what it is in the comments below and why it’s important to you. Or better yet, if you have a blog, in 1,500 words or less, blog about your favourite story ever and why you love it. Have fun writing and sharing,
*Princess Bride, Vizzini