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Tackling the epitome of political Science Fiction: The DUNE Saga

It's been a while since I last read the DUNE saga, but if there is one thing that you can never forget after reading it is that the whole thing revolves around the intricacies of politics and power. For those of you who have never read the book, and have only seen the movie and/or TV adaptations of it then the story is mostly about the action and daring-do, but you are missing out on so many levels of detail and nuance that it's almost as if you were seeing an entirely different story. For this post I will concern myself only with the first book in the series, but might mention ahead.

The primary story revolves primarily around the political relationships of three of the galaxy's Great Houses: the Atreides, the Corrino and the Harkonen; the basis of political power in this universe is derived primarily from economic power, and the greatest source of wealth is the substance know as the "spice", Melange. In a society where technology has fallen back to mechanics and computers, or thinking machines, are forbidden, reliance on human intelligence and abilities, as well as deliberate modification, has become commonplace.

Despite it being a story filled with action sequences, duels to the death, escapes into the dessert, treachery and all out war, the core of the story is power relations; this is a book where political and social relations are described and discussed freely by the characters, where it's the action of people with power which define the action of the book, not the antics of some backwater, unknown character who is suddenly and unexpectedly thrust into the role of hero. Paul, Muad'Dib Atreides, is heir to a powerful house, and new legitimate ruler of the planet Arrakis, known as Dune, after the fall of his house to treacherous attacks by the Emperor's Sardaukar guards disguised as Harkonnen troops; he has been trained to be a Duke of the galaxy, educated in court politics and behavior and several other topics needed for ruling, and this means that behind every decision he makes is a political motivation, and this grants us a glimpse into the workings of political minds. In this book we see only a brief glimpse of the other political entities that populate this galaxy, such as the Bene Gesserit, or the guild, or the Tleilaxu.

On first glance this might seem like just another focus in different characters, but there is one key difference, and that is the scope at which characters can act; whereas the other Fremen characters, even Stilgar, can only decide on small scale tactics and actions, they lack the vision to make decisions on a planet, nay galaxy-wide, scale, such as threatening to destroy all melange, and thus holding everyone else hostage to their will. This is one of the most complex and intrigue ridden works of speculative fiction, where the focus is more often on the wider picture than on the specific actions of individuals that the reader is seeing.

If you agree with this interpretation, by all means follow this blog, and if you disagree, then tell me why and we can talk about in the comments section below.


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