I needed to blog a personal commentary on this epic piece of Sci-Fi.
The new film adaptation of the sci-fi series Dune written by Frank Herbert will be released on 2 December. It is one of the first epic science fiction I read. It is a magnificent series in its breadth and scope. I consider it the number 1 example of world building encapsulating the pentad of politics: technology, religion, environment, history and economy. The mesmerising thought of space being folded using psychedelic substances, Spice, creatures such as the Guild members or the worms of Arrakis, overwhelmed my imagination so that even having first read the series some 30 years ago, it remains a constant reference point for me.
I remember thinking of the technology of still suits worn by the fremen which recycled sweat and urine for hydration. Dune or Arrakis the planet, home to the fremen, hostile to life and ruled by giant worms, with its vast swathes of desert and valuable natural resources. This imagery not lost in someone living in Australia, seeing vistas of hot dry lands. The evolutionary impetus for humans to control their environment sacralised into religious mythology. The reverence for every drop of water and the adherence to a long view to achieve an ultimate purpose which is revealed throughout the story. Water restrictions we have all experienced here in Oz.
Another standout story line was the Bene Gesserits. It was probably the first novel series which placed women in such a pivotal role of influencing the outcomes of history and exercise of mental autonomy over their bodies, physiological and reproductive. I have blogged a link here about the Bene Gesserits, truly fascinating and formidable in their skills and knowledge. For a young girl in her adolescent years, reading this series for the first time, the thought of having mental control over her physicality was just the most amazing thing to be able to do.
Nothing felt foreign in the story in spite of it being set well into the future and post-earth human existence. Its overarching themes of constant struggle to survive and the dynamics of power relations. The fusions of major present-day religions with references hear and there, help truncate the reader to the past history of earth. The maintenance of feudal systems of governance not so far distant in our own history.
The book series contains seven novels, with the first one Dune published in 1965 being the most well-known. There have been prequels written by Brian Herbert (son of Frank) and Kevin J Anderson and there has been a sequel to original series. The prequels contain their own allure and provide the backstories to the original series but do not interfere with it.
I am not sure if I will watch the new film adaptation (I probably will). I do remember watching the David Lynch version and felt it maintained authenticity. I am sure this latest version will have a wow factor of its own. But for me, sometimes I prefer not to watch film adaptions of your favourite stories, I consider the visualisation colonises your imagination somewhat, and the space between written words and their reader is lost. Not only as reading is a more active form of participation compared to watching a film, reading requires the mind to abstract the information and formulate what the words are saying via the readers perceptions. Watching a film sometimes removes that opportunity for the reader and the intimacy of discovery.
LOTR appeals to the romantic in me but Dune, with its fusion of imagination and insight to the political and all too human will to power as Nietzsche says, made me feel as if I was stepping into an entirely feasible alternate reality. The philosophical underpinnings of both these leviathans of the imagination are interesting as well, moral Aristotlean versus the Machiavellian materialist.