Dune. With a drug as the mind-altering center of all human civilization, the book could only have been written in the 1960s, when it was thought that narcotics were the key to attaining higher consciousness. Yet the story that surrounds it is much more than that; deeper and broader. The original author wrote five sequels, his son has done ten novels, several games have developed from it, one good movie, and one satisfying reboot that comprised three miniseries have all been based on the Dune universe, the Duniverse. The repeated success of the franchise (the original 1984 version is considered a cult classic) is undeniable.
The 1984 version served as a great introduction to a future very different from Star Trek and Star Wars. There is no attempt to show humans as anything more than intriguing animals who only allow civilization to continue because it allows them more power. The fun of watching a boy turn into a god in the eyes of his followers was fun. Seeing his ‘powers’ even more so.
I found the 2000 reboot awesome, not as emotionally inspiring but more politically complex than its predecessor. There are innumerable factions all conspiring with and against each other for power. The maze of conspiracies was difficult to follow the first time through – not because of bad editing but due to simple complexity. I loved it.
The difficulty of the material led me to a reading of all the Dune books beginning with Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Andersen’s The Butlerian Jihad and concluding with their Sandworms of Dune. I have my issues with Frank’s intense, terse style of writing. I have been unimpressed with his successors’ more standard approach to the subject matter and especially their treatment of Paul of Dune, but overall I have appreciated what has been attempted in them.
The original books revealed a seamless blending of political, economic, religious, and drug conspiracies set in a distant future. I enjoyed how Frank Herbert was able to create an environment where four factions held an important element of civilization – the Fremen controlled a planet that alone produced a drug that enhanced life and allowed for interplanetary travel, the Spacing Guild had unique individuals who were able to navigate the ships in space, the Bene Gesserit had the mysticism to control the beliefs of the common people, and the nobles ruled planets on a political level. The royal family kept everything in balance and ruled all elements. In that regard, the universe Frank Herbert formed was the most realistic one ever created in science fiction. The pair of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have filled in many of the blank spots in his stories and answered several questions that Frank Herbert never bothered with or did not have time to write about.
You may or may not be a fan of Frank or Brian’s writing, but the Duniverse is absolutely fascinating. What it does more than any other look into the future has ever done is to explore the potential of mankind. It is almost backward in its look on societal improvement and doesn’t mention too much technological development. But it does speak of humans improving themselves. Humans with a speed the Flash would be impressed with. Mentats with a computerlike capacity for processing information. A third group able to control their bodies’ chemistry and converse with their ancestors. In Dune, Frank Herbert created a universe with amazing potential for storytelling; a universe that makes sense within the boundaries of hard science but with the range of possibilities to be found only in comic books. I went back to the movies after finishing all the novels and found myself wanting more. I wanted more in the movies I saw and more movies in general.
I recently learned that there was an attempt to reboot the franchise and that it had flopped. Reading through interviews and articles written throughout the process, I think that Peter Berg had a good idea, which is depressing. I truly do wish that another, more integrated Dune movie could get off the ground. Even better, I wish that it could spawn a host of interlinking movies and shows much like Star Wars and Marvel have done.
What do you think?