Arrakis… Desert Planet…

Appendix S: Dune

It’s hard to add anything to what’s been said about Frank Herbert’s Dune in the 45 years since it first appeared. Dune was already a classic when i read it in 1981, and unlike many SF books from the cusp of speculative fiction’s New Wave, its impact remains as timeless now as it did then. Herbert grounded his sprawling tale of imperial politics and ecological revolution in a character story worthy of Tolstoy, downplaying the nuts-and-bolts aspects of his milieu’s technology in a way that prevents Dune from seeming stale, even today.

As with many of the most seminal works of speculative fiction and fantasy, the most amazing thing about Dune is how close it came to never seeing print, having been passed over by twenty publishers before being initially picked up by a nonfiction small press. In the canon of F&SF, there are few books whose importance literally cannot be understated. Dune is one of those. Without it, the world of imaginative literature would not be the same.

I break with a lot of Herbert fans in my complete dispassion for the later Dune books, including the capstone of the original trilogy, Children of Dune. To anyone who hasn’t read the books, my recommendation is always to read Dune and Dune Messiah back to back as one continuous narrative, with the sequel bringing Herbert’s vision to a satisfying and heartbreaking end.