In Which I Explore a Sci-Fi Classic: Dune

I finally forced myself to read the classic sci fi novel Dune, and actually? I liked it! | A book review by

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. –The Litany Against Fear

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not a fan of SFF in general. I enjoyed The Hobbit but not LOTR, and I rarely go out of my way to read anything sci fi or fantasy related. Still, the litany against fear is one of my favorite quotes ever, and I knew I had to one day read the book that produced it.

In Dune, Paul is a teenage boy, the son of a ruler in another universe. When his family is sent to Arrakis, a desert planet filled with people who are looked down upon by other civilizations but also the only know producer of an immensely important spice, things go wrong very quickly, and Paul is forced to take his chances in the dangerous deserts.

I had many thoughts about this book, things I loved and other things that I hated. So, in lieu of a cohesive review, I’m going to go with the pros and cons approach. Here we go!


  • This book is way more sci fi than it is fantasy. There are no elves and dwarves, no magic spells (well, mostly). This is more of a political drama set in space, with a little bit of the hero’s journey thrown in.
  • Paul’s mother has a surprisingly important and independent role (in the first half of the book, at least–see caveat in the cons list below). For a sci fi book written in the 1960s, I was amazed and pleased to see that there was at least one strong female character.
  • The world itself is fascinating. It’s detailed and fleshed out, but Herbert never gets carried away with his descriptions (unlike another author I could mention, *coughTolkiencough*). I’m not sure I’ve ever read another book set in a desert, and certainly not in a desert in space.



  • Sometimes I had no idea what was going on. Herbert isn’t always the greatest at explaining things, and I found myself quizzing my husband on the importance of the spice or who the Bene Gesserit are. This book is only the first in the series, and it would seem that many of the details are further explained in later books, but I wish the author had spent a bit more time explaining them in Dune itself.
  • Although Paul’s mother has a strong role in the first half of the book, once she and Paul are out in the desert, she suddenly becomes helpless. She takes on a leadership role in┬áthe tribe they end up with, but she never quite seems to gain back the power she had at the beginning of the book.
  • On a related note, why isn’t there more of the Bene Gesserit? We need more strong (if flawed) female characters in this book.
  • Paul got a bit overbearing toward the end of the book. Come on, dude. Don’t be like that.
  • I had to skim some of the more political intrigue-y parts. Some of it was surprisingly fascinating; other parts were predictably boring.


Even though Dune is not my typical cup of tea, I surprised myself by really enjoying it. Despite its flaws, Dune is a classic for good reason. It’s well written, set in an interesting world, and filled with fascinating characters. It is a fairly long book, so don’t make this your first foray into science fiction, but definitely give it a shot.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

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