Think for a moment about Star Wars. A young man on a desert world loses his family, joins a resistance movement, discovers his powers to manipulate reality, and ultimately brings down the oppressive state under which he was born, fulfilling both his father’s dream and an ancient prophecy.
Take away the lightsabers, the droids, the Millennium Falcon, and Darth Vader, and what you are left is with a story that owes much to its predecessor in modern adventure stories: Frank Herbert’s Dune.
I don’t mean to suggest that Star Wars is a rip-off of Dune. The former is an epic tale of Good vs. Evil, with a bit of romance and mysticism thrown in; the latter is a story of intrigue and aristocratic feuds, with ruthless armies pitted against tribes of religious fanatics, and a would-be Messiah in the middle.
The story is noteworthy for its scale: the Bene Gesserit and their bloodline politics, the Guild and its spice-based navigation, the noble houses and their ancient feuds, the Fremen and their Bedouin-inspired struggle to survive the deserts of Arrakis. But for all this complexity, it takes only Paul Atreides‘s determination to survive and succeed for the status quo to come crashing down.
For all that this story achieves as a whole, I was quite frustrated with some particulars. Herbert has an obsession with writing “Ah” as “Ah-h-h-h,” and jumping through multiple perspectives within the same scene. He also has an unfortunate habit of not writing out scenes of great import, but alluding to them in passing, instead of giving us all the weight that the rise of the Chosen One carries.
Dune is a story of spirit, of Messiah-princes and dueling conspiracies. If you’re patient, you’ll find many treasures below the sands.
Bibliography: Herbert, Frank. Dune. New York: Chilton Books, 1965.