April 5, 2015
Is there a work of science fiction that acts as the standard-bearer for the entire genre, the way “The Lord of the Rings” does for fantasy? I’m not sure. The field is crowded with worthy candidates. But I’d nominate Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”
It is a sprawling, glorious space opera, replete with memorable images, clever conceits, scientific speculation on a grand scale, and magnificent characters. The villains are vile and the heroes heroic. Who can ever forget Baron Vladimir Harkonnen? Or Duncan Idaho? “Dune” gave us mentats, gholas, hunter-seekers, the Gom Jabbar, and ornithopters.
The story continued after “Dune.” I have “Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune” sitting on the shelf next to their progenitor, and I have re-read them. In high school I rushed through the rest of the series written by Frank Herbert. But while I’ll likely read “Dune” again, I’m unlikely to continue on to any of the others. I haven’t picked up any of the continuation novels written by Frank Herbert’s son Brian in collaboration with Kevin J. Anderson. While that fictional universe is interesting, and doubtless could spawn an endless variety of stories, only the original book truly captured me.
The film version and the television series each had elements to recommend them. But there remains plenty of room for a more definitive cinematic take on “Dune.” I haven’t seen the documentary about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to create a film version. I hear it is fascinating. But as I haven’t been able to get through more than thirty minutes of a Jodorowsky film. And I’ve heard that he never read the novel. So consider me content that his vision never made it to the screen.
What other work of science fiction could challenge “Dune’s” claim the crown? Asimov’s “Foundation” novels? Something of Heinlein’s?