Dune by Frank Herbert
Illustrations by Sam Weber
Published in 1965; 2015 Edition by The Folio Society – Fourth printing 2016
Genre: Science fiction
Disclaimer: This review will be different from the norm in that it is split into two parts: a standard, albeit shorter, book review and a specific review of this Folio Society edition. I am endorsing this product through my own volition and belief in its high quality.
Part I: The Story
“In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.”
There are books in every genre that surpass their contemporaries and create a new threshold that transcends the general attitude toward genre stories; Dune, by Frank Herbert, is one such book. A heroic tale that carries elements of Greek tragedy, the hero’s journey, politics, philosophy, and a myriad of other topics, Dune is well-renowned for the impact it has had not only on science fiction, but literature as a whole. Following the fiery downfall and phoenix-like rise of Paul Atriedes and his family, Dune mixes together stories of survival, religious zealotry, and prescience to create a tale like no other.
Paul Atriedes is the protagonist; the fifteen-year-old son of Duke Leto Atriedes, he is being groomed in all manner of espionage and self-defense in order to survive in the world of the Great Houses. The book begins with him about to move to the planet of Arrakis; a desert-covered world rich in malange spice, which is the most valuable substance in the galaxy. The House Atriedes has just taken control from another great house, the Harkonnens, and their tragic tale begins shortly after taking residence.
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is the nemesis of the Atriedes and plans to destroy the family with the help of the Emperor, though this must be done through subterfuge since the Emperor cannot openly move against any one of the Great Houses. Paul is attacked and, after the death of his father and many household guards, must flee with his mother into the desert; there, they meet with the locals, called Fremen, and build a guerrilla force in order to take the fight back to the Harkonnens.
Dune captured and honed the appeal of political intrigue long before A Game of Thrones, making the reader distrust and question the loyalties of characters. There is one scene in particular that highlights this aspect of the story; during a dinner party in Duke Leto’s honor, there is a play-by-play of the political maneuvering and doublespeak used. There is a warning of a traitor in the midst of the Atriedes, and though the reader knows who it is, the tension of whether the characters will discover them before it is too late is well-built.
Herbert went far and beyond in his quest to build a believable world, creating different religious and cultural sects based on those from our very world. One of the most interesting are the Bene Gesserit; a sect of women who selectively breed Great Houses in order to create next evolution of humanity; send agents to plant prophecies among local populace to safeguard members who may go there one day. The amount of foresight and patience required for such an undertaking is absolutely mind-boggling, which is only one of the many aspects that set Dune apart from other science fiction novels.
Part II: The Book Itself
This edition features absolutely gorgeous illustrations by Sam Weber; each brings the characters to life and typically show images from passages that are already well-described; the images then give them more depth and detail. The Folio Society’s edition of Dune is bookended by an introduction by Michael Dirda and an afterword by Frank’s son, Brian Herbert; both give further insight to the book and its author, with an especially interesting viewpoint from Brian since he is both the son of the author and the inheritor of the Dune series. The book also contains appendices written by Herbert from the original printing that add to the amount of world-building in the novel.
Here are some specifications taken from The Folio Society web page:
- Bound in buckram, printed and blocked with a design by Sam Weber
- Set in Dante with Helvetica Neue and Black Tulip display
- 576 pages; frontispiece, 11 colour illustrations and a number of black & white tailpieces
- Endpaper map by Martin Sanders
- Pictorial slipcase with design by Sam Weber
- 10˝ x 6¾˝
- Original appendices included as follows, including the ‘Terminology of the Imperium:
- Appendix I
- The Ecology of Dune
- Appendix II
- The Religion of Dune
- Appendix III
- Report on Bene Gesserit Motives and Purposes
- Appendix IV
- The Almanak en-Ashraf
I first read Dune many years ago after going through some of my father’s books and finding his copy (pictured below); though it didn’t immediately become my favorite book, I did enjoy the experience and when I saw this lavish edition made by The Folio Society, I knew I had to get a copy (and I was able to courtesy of my tax return this year). There is so much that is appealing about Dune that it was difficult to write my summary/review because I couldn’t even begin to encapsulate the amount of wonderful things about the book. I wasn’t able to touch on Muad’Dib, the relationship between Paul and his mother, Jessica, or the ecological sentiment behind the novel, but as Frank’s son Brian says in the afterword, there are many layers to Dune and each can be focused on during a reading, which is why the book is so ripe for revisiting. If you have read Dune before and didn’t see what all the fuss was about, I would encourage you to give it a second chance.
Verdict: 5 messianic science fiction fables out of 5
Recommended for: Fans of science fiction, those who enjoy stories with political intrigue, people who like arid landscapes, and those who want a beautiful edition of an influential science fiction tale.
Not recommended for: Anakin Skywalker, fish, those who dislike science fiction, or those who dislike cinnamon.