What Is ‘Dune’?

The new Dune movie comes out next week, and I am super excited. However, I have no idea what Dune is. I’m only excited because every nerd I know above the age of 30 is excited. Dune was a monumental nerdy property before I got into science fiction, and has sold over 20 million copies (the best selling sci-fi novel ever), but I am bad at reading books, so I never looked too much into it. But now that a Dune movie with a rockstar cast is coming out, I figured I should learn a bit about Dune, so I can properly enjoy this movie. To be fair, I don’t know what is and is not a spoiler, this is just what’s easily accessible.

Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.

And according to Wikipedia:

Dune is set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which various noble houses control planetary fiefs. It tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose family accepts the stewardship of the planet Arrakis. While the planet is an inhospitable and sparsely populated desert wasteland, it is the only source of melange, or “the spice,” a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. Melange is also necessary for space navigation, which requires a kind of multidimensional awareness and foresight that only the drug provides. As melange can only be produced on Arrakis, control of the planet is thus a coveted and dangerous undertaking. The story explores the multilayered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the factions of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its spice.



So who is Timothée Chalamet, and why do I care? Well, apparently he was supposed to be the Messiah, according to a thousand-year breeding plan, but his father specifically wanted a son instead of a daughter (because patriarchy I’m sure), and his magic(?) mom went against her duties and chose to have a son for him. So now the Messianic daughter is a boy, can he still fulfill his theoretical destiny?

His father, Oscar Isaac, is the patriarch of a noble family who is in control of this planet, which is super dangerous, but has the super important resource.

Rebecca Ferguson is his mother, who is magical, and was supposed to be the final piece in a millenia long plan to produce the Messiah. My favorite D&D personality Matt Colville has a video about her (and more context) here:

So this noble family comes to Dune planet, and their ancestors set it up where the indigenous people believe that the son will be their savior.

So we have a really cool pre-story that makes what should be uninteresting (noble colonialists) suddenly very interesting (The Messiah). And from the below, it seems like it’s pulled off really well.

A portrayal of an alien society more complete and deeply detailed than any other author in the field has managed … a story absorbing equally for its action and philosophical vistas … An astonishing science fiction phenomenon.

Washington Post

In depth worldbuilding is certainly something that not everyone can achieve. When the conversation of worldbuilding comes in, the first name dropped is always JRR Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings world of Middle-earth, which I’ve heard this story might be comparable to.

Before Neil deGrasse Tyson was a famous astrophysicist who liked to criticize fun sci-fi, there was Carl Sagan, a famous astrophysicist who liked to criticize fun sci-fi.

“[There are stories] that are so tautly constructed, so rich in the accommodating details of an unfamiliar society that they sweep me along before I have even a chance to be critical.

Carl Sagan

A writer for The New Yorker theorized that the reason Dune “has not penetrated popular culture in the way that The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars” has is because of it’s lack of two major sci-fi staples, robots and computers.

[The story] crafts a universe where lesser novels promulgate excuses for sequels. All its rich elements are in balance and plausible—not the patchwork confederacy of made-up languages, contrived customs, and meaningless histories that are the hallmark of so many other, lesser novels.

Tamara I. Hladik, Science Fiction Critic

So the story doesn’t go for anything cheap or easy. Again, another parallel to The Lord of the Rings.

The last thing that seems interesting about this story, is of course the famous giant sandworm.

Dune So It Begins

Like I said, I don’t want to dig too deep into the story because I want to avoid spoilers, but also because I want to enjoy this movie with an open mind. It’s rare now for a nerd to not already have deep opinions as to what the heart of a sci-fi story is or should be, so I’m going to let myself enjoy this. But knowing a bit of context, so I can get right in, is always helpful.

What do you think I should know about Dune? Let me know in the comments below!

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