Friday, July 14, 2006

Dune by Frank Herbert

(hb; 1965: first book in the Dune Chronicles)

From the back cover

"Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the 'spice' melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis."


Dune is rich in political intrigue, treachery, oracular mysticism, lust, loyalty, love, jihad and societal upheaval, as well as many interesting, often conflicted characters. What makes Dune great is how it's simultaneously personal and emotional, yet coolly distant in an intellectual way, without compromising either of the elements, tracking the course of an empire over three or so years – Herbert manages this balancing act by focusing on the characters, while making them aware of their importance (or lack thereof) in the struggles and violence that consumes them.

This is one of my all-time favorite books. It has been since I read it as a boy (approximately thirty years ago); I've reread it several times since, and every time I read it, I get something completely new out of it – there are so many levels on which to take this landmark work that I foresee more readings of this personal magnitude in the years to come.

Followed by Dune Messiah.


Dune has been filmed twice.

The first film version was released stateside on December 14, 1984.

Kyle MacLachlan played Paul Atreides. Jürgen Prochnow played Duke Leto Atreides.  Francesca Annis played Lady Jessica.  Alicia Witt, billed as Alicia Roanne Witt, played Alia. 

Richard Jordan played Duncan Idaho.  Patrick Stewart played Gurney Halleck.  Linda Hunt played Shadout Mapes.  Freddie Jones played Thufir Hawat.  Dean Stockwell played Doctor Wellington Yueh.  Max von Sydow played Doctor Kynes.  Jack Nance played Nefud.

Sean Young played Chani.  Everett McGill played Stilgar. 

Kenneth McMillan played Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.  Sting played Feyd Rautha.  Brad Dourif played Piter De Vries.  Paul L. Smith, billed as Paul Smith, played The Beast Rabban.

José Ferrer played Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV.  Virginia Madsen played Princess Irulan.

 David Lynch scripted and direct the film.  Lynch also - uncredited - played a "Spice Worker".

If you see this film, make sure you see the three-hour/Director's Cut version, which makes more sense than the initial/studio-cut version of the film.


The second version began airing stateside as a three-part television miniseries on December 3, 2000.

Alec Newman played Paul Atreides/Muad'Dib, a role he reprised in the 2003 television miniseries sequel, Children of DuneWilliam Hurt played Duke Leto Atreides.  Saskia Reeves played Lady Jessica Atreides.

P.H. Moriarty played Gurney Halleck.  James Watson played Duncan Idaho.  Karel Dobrỳ played Dr. Pardot Kynes.

Uwe Ochsenknecht played Stilgar.  Barbora Kodetová played Chani.

Ian McNeice played Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.  Matt Keeslar played Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen.  László I. Kish played Glossu Rabban.

Giancarlo Giannini played Padishah - Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV.  Julie Cox played Princess Irulan Corrino. 

John Harrison scripted and directed the miniseries.

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