I began reading this book having been told it was like Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings. Even with those impossibly high comparisons, Dune blew my mind.
It’s the story of Paul, a duke’s son, whose family is sent to rule the desert planet of Arrakis. Arrakis has no water, no large civilizations — nothing but sand and spice, everyone’s favorite drug. When the duke is overthrown and replaced by his enemies, Paul hides out in the deep desert with the local Fremen and learns that the arid planet nicknamed Dune has many layers of meaning.
The people of Arrakis worship water, living their daily lives in suits designed to recycle their bodily moisture and rendering down their dead, because “The flesh belongs to the man; the water belongs to the tribe.” They live with a sort of desert mysticism, a science-cum-faith that indicates at a strong and ancient culture.
Paul himself is involved in a different sort of pseudo-magic. Trained by his mother since birth in the ways of the Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood whose ultimate purpose is mysteriously “to serve," Paul is skilled in extraordinary observation and manipulation. He is destined to be the Muad’Dib, the Lisan al-Gaib, the Kwisatz Haderach. He fulfills prophetic roles in more than one faith and develops the ability to see the future — although chaotically.
This is the basic story, but it’s as intricate as fantasy series powerhouses like A Song of Ice and Fire or Lord of the Rings. There’s so much I didn’t mention: the sandworms, the emperor, the Fremen, and all of the incredibly dynamic and unique characters. Only so much can be conveyed in a blog post.
The book was definitely as confusing as Lord of the Rings, where most of the time you know what’s going on and sometimes you just have to go along with the confusing stuff, and then when you’re almost at the end you realize there’s many appendices you could have been using the whole time. At times I had to reread passages or pages to make sure I understood or to confirm that I didn’t understand their meaning. However, very little of the story itself was lost to me on these little hiccups. And using the glossary definitely helps.
It’s hard to say what this book is like, because it’s unlike any other book I’ve read before. The Star Wars/Lord of the Rings comparison is good because aesthetically it definitely reminded me of Star Wars — the faded, clunky technology and peculiar landscapes and creatures. The story itself is more Lord of the Rings, inasmuch as it narrates the regaining of a lost throne, involves great journeys, and is so saturated in subtle mystics and complex fantasy cultures that the reader is sure the author has written much on the subjects that he hasn’t published.
All in all, read this book. If you like science fiction or fantasy, read this, as it certainly appeals to both categories. A story that will latch itself onto your heart; characters you love and mourn; layers of faith and feeling that will change how you see the world; an adventure unlike any other.