Ryan Jeffrey Ditto Tiedemann’s Postmodern 21st Century Review of Important Works in the Greater Pantheon of English Literature

Ryan Jeffrey Ditto Tiedemanns Postmodern 21st Century Review of Important Works in the Greater Pantheon of English Literature

Ryan Tiedemann, Staff Writer

“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” – Frank Herbert, Dune.

Environmentalism, individualism, political and religious fanaticism. Frank Herbert’s masterpiece, Dune, considered by many to be the single most important work of science fiction, contains all of these, and much more. Taking place roughly 20,000 years into the future, mankind has spread among the stars, Earth long since forgotten. The novel follows House Atreides, one of the great houses in the Imperium (government), as it assumes control of the Desert Planet Arrakis from House Harkonnen. Told primarily from the perspective of Paul Atreides, what ensues is a conflict for control of the planet and the spice melange, which can only be found on Arrakis and is necessary for all interstellar travel. This conflict soon becomes one for the galaxy itself; major factions battle for control over the future of humankind.

When analyzing expansive works of fiction I typically first consider where the author places the reader, and intend to continue this tradition. The world of Dune is, simply put, awe-inspiring. Blending both hard and soft worldbuilding, as well as simple, elegant prose, Herbert constructs an expansive yet understandable setting. He also introduces complex ecological and geographical concepts through the planet Arrakis. These concepts drive the plot of the story and serve as motivation for particular characters. Herbert incorporates themes of environmentalism and colonialism within his world itself, analyzing human’s impact on their surroundings in a startling manner. Furthermore, Herbert provides depth to the world and introduces multiple settings. He constructs characters partially through their locations, characterizing the violent, brutish Harkonnens by describing the conditions they inflict on their homeworld, Hiedi Prime. This manipulation of setting vastly improves the novel and its sense of scope.

The crowning achievement of Dune is unquestionably the political and philosophical commentary it provides. Throughout the novel, Herbert actively informs the reader of what is to come in the plot. However, rather than ruin major events, this allows the inevitably of Paul’s future envelop the reader, the weight of the events to come sinking in. Dune is a story of greed and fate, tradition and rebirth. Weaving between these themes, Herbert engrosses you in a story while simultaneously informing you of how it will end. Dune is layers upon layers of complex narratives, each one serving its own purpose. After reading each impactful event in the plot I would pause and consider its implications, not because I felt I didn’t understand it, but because the book’s plot is simply that intriguing and relevant. What causes religious wars and can they be prevented? Why must characters be resigned to their fate? Does one truly possess free will?

Dune is by no means an easy read, requiring both concentration and analysis. However, please do not let this discourage you. I read very little science fiction yet still found myself thoroughly entertained. Dune is an excellent book, and I recommend it to anyone wishing to expand their literary bubble. I would give Dune an impressive 9/10, on a scale where 0/10 is a gas station receipt and 10/10 is this literature review.