Dune Fifty Years On

In Saturday’s Guardian Review Hari Kunzru had an article – the lead article – reflecting on Frank Herbert’s Dune fifty years on, describing its genesis and continuing relevance.

I’ll slip over the contention in the above the piece strapline that Dune is perhaps the greatest novel in the Science-Fiction canon (on second thoughts I won’t slip over that, it simply isn’t) but it certainly spawned a series of gradually diminishing in return sequels.

Of course I reached it in the wrong way. My first contact with it was via Dumbarton Library when I had graduated to the adult shelves and devoured the yellow jacketed Gollancz hardbacks, the Dobson Science Fiction and Hale SF publications but it was Dune Messiah – the first (and best) sequel I read first as I didn’t realise it was a sequel since Dune wasn’t on the shelves – that day at least. This is perhaps why to this day I prefer Dune Messiah to Dune. I simply think it works better as a novel and indicator of what Herbert was getting at.

That, as Kunzru says, Star Wars was ripping off Dune I suppose I noticed subliminally. But then I never thought the film could be original in any way. I still think that SF works best on the page and not on a screen (of whatever size.) Film and TV images could only ever be a poor imitator of the pictures created inside the brain.

One thing that did occur to me on reading Kunzru’s piece though, was that with its championing of the Arabic/Muslim ├Žsthetic in the culture and religion of the Fremen of Arrakis Dune would not – could not – be published today. (At least not by a traditional publisher. And even if it was, say, self-published, it would not meet with the same appreciation.)

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