I was a late bloomer in the Sci-Fi general. When I was younger, I preferred a more realistic setting for my books. Little did I know that what it took to cross over to the dark side were just one boring winter afternoon and one great book.
Dune, by Frank Herbert, was the first real sci-fi book that I read. Although it had been in my house for a long long time, as I grew up with my sister devouring Dune and all its sequels. That winter afternoon I discovered what it was like to be taken in a completely different universe. To see and meet other species, to get a glimpse of a new way of living. And also to learn about customs and rituals literally out of this world.
Little about the book’s narrative
I’m not going to dwell too much on the action of the book. So no spoilers for those of you who didn’t read it yet. I am not going to rob you of the delight.
The central figure of the book is a young Nobel, Paul Atreides. His family must move to the distant planet Arrakis, a desert planet, with harsh living conditions. There the water is scarce, and the people are adapted to live in strange conditions. They wore body suits that recycled every bit of water the human body produced. This place is also the only planet in the known universe that produced melange, or “the spice”. This is a drug that enhanced life and mental abilities, and that gave the consumers bright blue eyes. The drug is also crucial for interstellar travel.
Long story short, Paul’s family is betrayed by the Emperor and the former rulers of Arrakis, House Harkonnen. Paul and his mother are forced to take refuge with the free people of the planet, who teach him the ways of their world. Instead, he manages to become a sort of messianic figure to the free people of Akaris, becoming their ruler and prophet.
Is this the future of humanity?
The book is wonderfully written, it gives you the feeling that you are actually there, living with the people of the sand. While discovering a world so strange to us and so far in the future, that somehow you start to believe that in a couple of million years, that could be possible. So for me, this is what makes or breaks a sci-fi book: can you imagine it ever happening?