Since Frank Herbert published Dune in 1965, the book has been a sci-fi classic. While the book certainly has many flaws, with writing and themes that can seem clunky and outdated from a 2020 perspective, the world of Dune is unlike anything else in the sci-fi genre. In the far future of the novel, an age so far away that it does not even have a definite date, humanity controls a vast space-faring empire that spans lightyears. Unlike most space operas, there are no aliens in Dune, and no insane artificial intelligences (AIs) either. There used to be crazy AIs, certainly. In Frank Herbert’s universe, somewhere between the farthest future and now, the AIs rebelled against humanity and lost, an ancient event so distant that its only reverberance in the modern future is a complete ban on computers.
The starships that patrol the vast distances between stars in this universe conduct “space-folding” to jump across lightyears, a process that requires incredible feats of mathematics. Without computers, these insane calculations are conducted by “mentats”, individuals whose incredible training in mathematics and meditation allow them to guide inter-galactic spaceflight, much like the NASA human “computers” that plotted orbital mechanic equations during the space-race. Unfortunately, these mentats are only able to make their calculations with the help of the Spice, a semi-magical drug that imparts superhuman comprehension of spacetime. Much like Star Wars and other sci-fi epics, Dune has both laser guns and force-field “shields”; however, if a shield is hit by a laser beam the resulting near-atomic explosion wipes out everything in the area, including both the target and the shooter. For this reason the heroes of this far future tale fight mainly with swords and Napoleonic artillery in a bizarre anachronism that makes the novel even more interesting.
If all that is not interesting enough, Dune takes place not in space but almost entirely on a single planet, a planet named Dune. Unsurprisingly, this planet is a desert planet (the naming conventions in this book are not very creative). However, Dune earned acclaim not for its stellar writing but for its influential world building. The planet Dune, also known as Arrakis, is a land of shifting sands and even more shifting governments, inhabited by bounty-hunters, rebels, rogues, and giant sandworms the size of starships. The story follows Paul Atreides, a young duke in waiting whose family is given control of the planet Dune, the only known source of the Spice. Following an assassination attempt, Paul flees into the desert to lead a rebellion against the encroaching regime of his family’s hereditary nemeses, with the help of the Fremen, a warrior desert people committed to terraforming the planet Dune into a new Earth. With an unreliable narrator and treachery everywhere, the story is exciting but complex and sometimes hard to follow. Dune puts a spin on the classic chosen-one epic ballad so often found in mythology, presenting instead a sci-fi world more similar to a swords and sorcery adventure. Even more interesting, the Fremen are considered one of the earliest representations of the modern environmental movement.
Even with so much to offer Dune can be too melodramatic at times. Still, it quickly gained a cult following, so it is no surprise that movie adaptations have been attempted before now. Most of the past adaptations were hated by fans, but this time an award-winning director, Dennis Villeneuve, has taken on the project of making a Dune movie worthy of the book. The Dune movie will come in two parts, much like the Avengers Infinity War and Endgame sequence. With a massive budget, star-studded cast, and plenty of unique world building to work with, the new Dune movie promises an exciting alternative to the standard Star Wars versus Star Trek feud. While there is no trailer for Dune yet, the production team has released first look photos that are included in this article. As one of the few movies unaffected by the current coronavirus outbreak, the Dune movie will be released November 20, 2020. See more images from the movie below.