Thursday, 4 April 2013
It is common knowledge that most of the Earth's surface is covered by water; around two thirds of it, if memory serves me correctly. Granted, most of that is oceans and salt water, and therefore not fit to drink. But we still have enough fresh water to sustain the nearly ten billion people that inhabit our planet.
Now, imagine a planet where the opposite proves to be true. A desert planet named Arrakis, where the most precious resource in the known galaxy is produced. Frank Herbert's Dune is the first book in the eponymous series that paints a picture of life on such a planet, and a book considered by many to be one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time.
The story opens with the arrival of the members of House Atreides - Duke Leto Atreides; his wife, Lady Jessica; and their son, Paul Atreides - who have left the comfort of their own planet for Arrakis. They've come to take over and oversee the production of the aforementioned resource, a mind-enhancing spice known as melange. But unknown to them, their appointment has been orchestrated to foster some underhand politics.
It doesn't take long before an attack by a rival House disrupts their fledgling administration. Duke Leto is captured, while Paul Atreides and Lady Jessica are forced to seek shelter with the Fremen, a group of desert dwellers. And it is there that Paul must continue to develop his mental abilities, while preparing for a day when he would be able to exact his revenge on the evil Baron Harkonnen.
The above summary doesn't even begin to do the depth of this book any real justice. Its pages are practically teeming with details great and small. Like the giant sandworms that hunt their prey based on how much noise their footsteps make. Or the special suits the Fremen wear to retain as much bodily fluids as possible. The world is so rich that a glossary of terms is needed (and included at the back) just to keep track of everything.
And therein lies my only problem with this science-fiction classic. The constant need to look up terms like Bene Gesserit and Lisan al-Gaib. Add that to the book's doorstopper length and a minor annoyance suddenly becomes a major concern. But I guess it is all required to create a world every bit as vivid as J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth.