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Home arrow Books arrow Dune -- Frank Herbert

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Dune -- Frank Herbert Print
Written by Mike Noel   
Sunday, 14 January 2007
Dune is considered by many to be a science-fiction masterpiece. It has been compared to Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings as similar in scope and magnificence. Unfortunately I didn't find it quite so stunning. The story was adequate but not all that intriguing and the characters were fairly stereotypical. It could be that Herbert defined those character types with this work (it was first published in 1965) and since then they've been copied much. Maybe that's why they didn't seem so unique. Because of these issues the book just didn't grab me or hold my interest so instead my mind started wandering and thinking about the between-the-lines stuff.
The secular humanist anthropological theory of religion was all over this book. The idea is that religion is a man-made construct and just like most man-made tools, it can be used for good or for bad. Religion can be used for good when it provides a social context and pattern for living that allows people in that context freedom and security. Religion is obviously used for bad when it is used to create oppression. Or so goes the theory.
Now this is the interesting part. If a good willed and charismatic person can create the right religion, they can use it for the greater good of the population. They need to achieve a critical mass of believers so that they have enough force to work the things they want to work. Once they have that then they can sometimes turn the whole course of human history.
These notions are the basis for much of Dune. They are not so much at the forefront of the plot but they are the underlying belief of the author as he writes the story.
I found one other aspect of the book interesting in that it shows the age of the story a bit. Much of the motivation for the main characters is to transform the environment of Dune from an arid desert to a lush "green" planet. I'm sure that back in the 60's and 70's that seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. However, in today's politically correct world, it seems more natural that we would want to leave the planet the way that nature intended it and figure out ways to adapt the people to the planet.
In this book I was hoping for something better. Since it is a science-fiction classic I'm glad I read it but I have no intentions of reading other books from the series.

Copyright 2004 - 2008 Mike Noel. All rights reserved.
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