The Great Dune Trilogy

The Great Dune Trilogy - Frank Herbert To the uninitiated the Dune universe and its characters, plots and intrigues might seem inaccessible. And perhaps that is fair comment. The continuously shifting allegiances, uncovering of secrets and see-sawing fulcrum of power can be intimidating. Accompanied by Herbert's rather staid prose, Dune is not recommended as a primer for the novice or the curious, however, those willing to persist will be rewarded many-fold. That is not to say that Dune is difficult to read - it isn't. Dune is the reason why Sci-fi exists. It is the most magnificent theatre of the fantastic, the grandiose and the epic, whilst still retaining it's integrity.

Sci-fi is also a potent vehicle for social commentary. Not bound by the constraints of other forms of fiction, Sci-fi has a virtual blank canvas upon which to paint its social allegory, allowing it unprecedented scope and accuracy. Frank Herbert makes full use of these faculties and delivers a typically honest interrogation of both temporal and existential issues such as imperialism, globalisation (universalisation?), organised religion, free will vs predestination, and fundamentalism, amongst others. Not only that but Herbert pioneered planetary ecology in creating an ecosystem for Arrakis, an ecosystem that undergoes some drastic transformations during the course of the book, with remarkable accuracy have reported many ecologists.

But most incredibly of all, Herbert somehow created an allegory that pre-dated its subject by almost three decades, an allegory that is still as pertinent now as it was 20 years ago. Without giving too much away, the world of Dune (trilogy) and everything that takes place in it can be viewed as a direct analogy for Western, specifically US, involvement in the Middle East from Gulf War I hence, with particular reference to the conquest for oil (melange/spice). The Fremen culture is closely modelled on Arab culture, even speaking practically pure Arabic.

But what freaks me out, and many Arab readers, is that some of the Arabic words and concepts employed by Herbert in Dune did not become part of mainstream Arabic culture until the 21st century (the first book was published in 1965)!

Obviously I am a big fan - Dune was the book that eventually tilted me towards the Sci-fi windmill - but I believe this book deserves recognition as a great work of fiction, not just Science Fiction.

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