Let’s Get Literal – Dune by Frank Herbert

List Item: Read 100 of the greatest works of fiction
Progress: 51/100Title: Dune
Author: Frank Herbert
Year: 1965
Country: USA

I needed a good book to make up for the disappointment that was Tristram Shandy. I don’t know why I turned to Dune in an attempt to find a good book, but it just felt like the complete antithesis of what preceded it. What makes for a better change from a meandering frustration of a book than some science fiction – one of the few on the list of this genre.

10 years ago I actually saw the film version of Dune. It was a film that he brought with him on his first visit to the UK to see me – so I guess this was part of his dating strategy? I remember the film being a bit weird, thinking Kyle McLachlen was dreamy and wondering who the hell decided to cast Sting in a major motion picture. Still, because of this memory, I have an incredible soft spot for Dune. 

The book is SO much better than the film. However, I do appreciate seeing the film first as it helped with some of the visualisation – although Kyle McLachlen really was probably a bit too old to play Paul Atreides for most of the film… but the time jump near the end makes up for that discrepancy.

Dune is probably the first book set in space that I have read other than Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and is most definitely the first that I’ve read which could be described as a space opera. It’s not pulpy, but it does have a lot of big action, heroic characters and fantastical futuristic settings (even if the desert planet of Arrakis is incredibly bleak at times).

The worlds, peoples and mythologies of Dune feel so incredibly alive that it’s hard to not find yourself sucked into it. There are times where he describes the ‘spice’ where it feels like you could really imagine how it would taste (Coke Zero Cinnamon is where my mental tastebuds settled). In the last year of reading, only The Old Man and the Sea has been able to transport me to another world in the same way, but even so – Frank Herbert’s descriptions are far more pleasing to the imagination.

There is a large cast of characters in the book, which did mean that I had to remind myself of things when there had been large gaps in my reading (such as my week in Greece or when I found it difficult to get a seat on my train), but whenever I picked Dune up it was like I’d never left. At some point I need to pick up the sequels, as I really want to see where this story is going – especially as it set up things that could be potentially catastrophic.

I’m going to move to comics again for a little while, but it really is good to have found an antidote for Tristram Shandy. Hopefully I’ll have more books to come that are enjoyable like Dune rather than a chore.

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