Science Fiction: Ten Explorations

By C. N. Manlove | Go to book overview

5

Frank Herbert, Dune
(1965)

Frank Herbert's Dune is frequently viewed as a science-fiction masterpiece. 1 It is in some ways a mixture of the mode of the Koran, the rise of a messiah, and the story of Lawrence of Arabia, who made himself one with the Arabs. It grew, Herbert has said, out of the image of a planet covered by desert sand, and from his wish to write an analysis of humanity's need for a messiah or superhero. 2 Its origins were thus both imaginative and intellectual, and in the bonding of the two lies much of its strength. It has been argued that Dune was also written as a reply to Asimov's Foundation trilogy, out of Herbert's dislike for impositions of science on history: thus Herbert replaces Seldon's mathematics with Paul Muad'Dib's wild unconscious, and order and civilization are put together with anarchy and primitive nature. 3 Certainly it can be said that Dune might not have been written had the example of Asimov's epic not been there.

The desert planet Arrakis or Dune has beneath its surface great deposits of the spice melange, which is mined for export to other planets of an empire. The natives of the planet (though in fact they were originally exiles from another) are the Fremen, an Arab-like people in appearance and customs, whose primary concern is the conservation of water and whose strengths lie in their patience, in their fanatical loyalty and in their powers of concealment. The last is particularly important, for unknown to the rulers of the planet and the empire at large, the Fremen are busy covering parts of the desert with self-sustaining plants that will eventually make an atmosphere suitable for vegetation. The Fremen are also, however, waiting for a messiah to lead them from the wilderness on a jihad, or holy war.

To Arrakis from the tropical world of Caladan comes the newly-appointed overlord Duke Leto, with his son Paul. Leto plans a more humane treatment of the disadvantaged people of

-79-

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