Dune is widely considered the definitive piece of sci-fi literature, often considered the “Lord of the Rings” of the genre. And I think it lives up to the praise–it truly is a fascinating, imaginative story that delivers an otherworldly vicarious experience.
The story drops you into the life of the young Paul Atreides of the noble House of Atreides, who is to inherit control of the planet Arrakis, which is the sole source of a substance known as melange, the “spice of spices” needed across the universe for interstellar travel, tapping into latent psychic abilities, and extending life.
The incumbent family in control of Arrakis, the Harkonnen House, aren’t willing to give up their position easily though and put into motion a plan that sees Paul cast out to the hinterlands to die. Paul doesn’t die, though. Instead, he builds an army and prepares to take back what is rightfully his and discovers that his rise may have been prophesied, making him a messiah of sorts.
Like Game of Thrones, what makes Dune special is the skill with which the world was crafted and made plausible, and the diversity, complexity, and profundity of the ideas and philosophies represented in the story. This isn’t just a recounting of neat things happening, this is an intellectual exploration of ecology (Herbert was an accomplish ecologist), politics, religion, and spirituality woven into a brilliantly plotted story involving unique, fascinating characters.
Simply put, this isn’t a book that just entertains you–it transports you to another place and time, makes you ponder on what you would do given the circumstances, and challenges your perceptions of the desire for wealth and power, the corrupt nature of politics, the nature of divinity, and more.