Arrakis. Dune. Desert planet.
It was time for a revisit to Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic. I had journeyed there twice before. The most recent trip had been in the early 90s when my friend Dennis had convinced me to read them again, as they were some of his favourite books. I had worked my way through them, but still felt that there was something I was missing from them.
Of course, that was nothing compared to my first trip with the Atreides family. I had picked up the original when I had heard a big budget film was being made, and I wanted to know the source material before I saw the film.
I got through it back then, but I didn’t appreciate it as much as I did this time around.
Sometimes you just come to a book at the right time, and despite having visited before, this was the journey that really resonated with me.
When I was young, the main character, Paul Atreides, was fifteen and then eighteen as the tale progresses. Coming to it as an adult, and seeing a young character thrust into these huge events encompassing politics, religion and war, it really affected me this time through.
Young Paul Atreides is leaving his comfortable home of Caladan and travelling to the desert planet of Arrakis also known as Dune. Accompanying him are his family’s entire royal household, his father, Duke Leto, his mother, the Duke’s beloved concubine, and Bene Gesserit (a religious, political order that is manipulating the genetic lines of the ruling houses, determined to bring about the ultimate being the kwisatz hadderach) devotee, the Lady Jessica.
They travel to Arrakis on the orders of the Padishah Emperor, Shadam IV. They are to oversee the production and harvesting of the spice melange, a drug, a necessity of space travel.
But there are plans within plans, and the enemies of House Atreides, House Harkonnen, have a plan to turn one of the Atreides house against the family he serves, and allow them to assume control of Arrakis, again.
They do not count on Paul, his mother Jessica, a Bene Gesserit planted legend, giant sandworms and the incredible nomads of the planet, the Fremen.
I got so swept up in the world this time. I think before this I wasn’t able to separate my reading of the book with the David Lynch and Alan Smithee versions of the film. The film is exceptional in that it is David Lynch’s only big budget affair, and some of the designs (costume, set, vehicle and creature) are exceptional, and while it strays from the source material in a number of areas, the worlds on the screen were recognisable as part of Herbert’s vision.
I was able to eschew all of that this time, and simply enjoy it in the theatre of the mind and it was amazing. The characters, the politics, the families, all of it was laid out in my head under Herbert’s guiding hand, and I fell into the story completely.
It’s a massive tale, and the worlds Herbert created have a sense of history to them. We are afforded a glance of this very important moment in the universe, But the imagination fires with hints of the stories that lead up to it, and that alone speaks for how captivating the story is.
If you’ve never read it, maybe it’s time to pick it up. If you have read it, isn’t it time to go back again and walk (without rhythm) across the sands and journey with Paul Muad’Dib?