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Audiobook Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

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“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad’Dib, then take care that you first place him in his time:..” –

Excuse me? WHAT are you doing? Why is your upper body floating in front of a universe of stars while you speak a monotone monologue of exposition dialogue? And what’s with the Princess Leia hair? Actually on second thought I don’t think I want to know the answer to that one.

It’s just as well you don’t want to know! I don’t think I can effectively answer your question. Just avoid the sandworms on your way out! But I should get to the point for my readers. Dune by Frank Herbert is one of the classic science fiction masterpieces. The book from 1965 is considered a seminal work in the field to the point that almost all science fiction released since contains some form of giant desert planet (potentially uninhabitable or almost uninhabitable) and several of those contain giant monstrous worms or similar creatures. Dune was originally published as two separate halves in the science fiction magazine Analog Science Fiction And Fact I’ve mentioned in the past when discussing Frozen Hell and Farewell To The Master. It also tied for the famed Hugo Award in 1966 and won the inaugural – equally famed – Nebula Award that same year. On top of this in 2003 it was cited as the world’s best selling science fiction novel and since 2009 the names of planets from across the Dune series have been used as the names of plains, craters etc on Saturn’s moon Titan!

The plot (which I shall ENDEAVOUR to simplify for my readers!) is as follows: Set in the distant future Dune is the story of Paul Atreides the heir presumptive to Duke Leto Atreides who has recently been made steward of the desert planet Arrakis otherwise known as Dune. Arrakis is the only world which possesses melange – or colloquially spice – a powerful drug which enhances mental abilities and extends the user’s life at the cost of a risk of intense addiction and madness. Spice is also used by a select group for space navigation, rendering control of Arrakis a very important card in internal politics. The story focuses on the political battles and manoeuvring inside the empire between the Atreides, the Harkonnens, the desert people of Arrakis the Fremen and the reveal of the Kwisatz Haderach (A key part of the plan of the so called Bene Gesserit sisterhood. I won’t go into detail on it as it gives away the vast majority of the plot.)

The writing of Dune is…simultaneously completely alien and utterly wondrous. It truly travels you to this world full of dukes, those with visions of the future known as Mentats, psychologically horrifying barons, and a messiah figure who fights against his own mystique. The internal thoughts of the characters are very well defined. As complicated as the book is, the series is enveloping. You find yourself drawn to these characters, be it Paul, the depraved Baron Vladimir Von Harkonnen, the understandable goals of the Atreides retainers or the leader Stilgar of the Fremen tribe. There is a true understanding of theming, mythology and symbolism throughout the tale. The story truly flows well. You need to pay attention to understand the specifics of the plot – a physical edition comes with its own glossary – but much like Earthsea, Foundation and other classics of the era the story captures its reader and never lets go! There are several complexities and if you aren’t careful you will lose track of the plot but the legend of Muad’Dib will call to you. Especially to fans of science fiction, mythological fantasy and the grand epics of old.

The narration of this release is somewhat interesting. The vast majority of the narrative is performed by Simon Vance who I mentioned previously in my review of Eaters Of The Dead. His performance is beautifully done, with a tone that perfectly suits the epic that is Frank Herbert’s Dune. His voice is calm and relaxing, soothing and feels as vast as the desert itself. Occasionally however throughout the piece, there are scenes performed by others, with multiple actors involved. Sadly I cannot hunt down – despite my best efforts – a list of who plays what roles throughout the story although I shall name some examples.

Among others in the release there are performances by Scott Brick who is a well known narrator of many highly regarded audiobooks of numerous types, Orlagh Cassidy who has a sizeable reputation for acting as narrator of David Baldacci releases and Euan Morton who is well known in audio as a performer for multiple Star Wars releases as well as some of the Dune sequels among others.

NephriteIn conclusion I truly consider Dune one of the true classics. It is definitely not for everyone but it is a story which earns its fame and its glory. I hope that I can convince some of you to journey to Arrakis and possibly go deeper to the tale. I may not have been quite as persuasive as I am at my best..but this tale is one it may well be best to jump in head first. To hear of the original, Dune Messiah, Children Of Dune and the continuing saga of Frank Herbert. Although for your own sanity AVOID the sequels written by his son!

Sayonara!

Nephrite

 

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