Power, Fate, Politics–Dune is an action-packed Sci-Fi Epic

The heat rushes at me in waves, a heartbeat of the sun reflecting on dunes. I remember when water could fall from the sky, when the sand dunes were colossal ocean waves, and salt was tasted on the tongue on planet Caladan. Now, the spice melange draws travelers to the choking deserts of planet Arrakis. And I am drawn into Frank Herbert’s Dune. I have never intentionally read the books before the movie — I still have never touched the Hunger Games trilogy or the Harry Potter series — but I was drawn to Dune on a bright Sunday afternoon in September while browsing my local bookstore, allowing myself to gravitate towards the vibrant orange cover. I crammed to finish the book before the movie release date in late October. 

My sci-fi voyage began in the mysticism of the epigraphs of each chapter varying in theme: power, fate, politics, tradition, fear. A suitable foreshadow to the lengthy journey of Paul Atreides, the story’s Messiah. Paul’s journey is not exclusive to his character arc; Herbert weaves Paul’s story in the whimsical world building and mapped out history that spares no detail. Herbert captures the essence of human existence in mere phrases, “Fear is the mind-killer.” Dune successfully balances the cold exterior of a 412-paged space odyssey with perspicuous strands of tender human connection, witty banter, love, family, and mercy. 

Dune avoids the trite clichés of female empowerment (i.e. The Girlboss, an unrelatable fusion of capitalist aspirations and a limited vision of empowerment), and instead develops an exclusive and terrifying pseudo-religious organization that is ultimately revealed as a beautifully-flawed system of power independent from the patriarchy. Herbert is unafraid to allow women to be just as flawed as men, regarding power as a concept that corrupts all beings — a refreshing take on feminist ideals not muddled by a false claim of relatability. 

I was moved by Herbert’s captivating story of a young boy navigating his “terrible purpose” to bear the burden of omniscience. I could not help but fight with Paul as he fought for the underdog, the Fremen, in a war between the Great Houses over the spice melange (“the most precious substance in the Universe”), reflective of the imbalanced power dynamic amongst the rich and the poor. I was inspired by his journey to learn how to love–beyond superficial young adult romance–civilization, nature, and the rawest forms of humanity (“the [instance] in which you discover your father is a man–with human flesh”). Dune perfectly encapsulates the magical realism of the science fiction genre, it is “a loss, an awakening to the fact that the world is there and here and we are in it alone.”