Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My top 5 political science fiction books

I have been working for a long time on this post, and I'm still not 100% sure about it, but one thing is certain, if I keep on waiting for it to be "perfect" it will never be published, and besides this is my personal list, so if you disagree with the inclusion (or exclusion) of a given book, please let me know in the comments. These are five individual novels that have shaped political science fiction over the past century, and as such I have chosen them as five must reads for anyone interested in this subject; I am working also on a post about sagas, trilogies and series, so you will not find here some titles that would seem obvious otherwise.
1. A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley. Coming from a society as structured and divided by social class as early 20th century England, this is one sharp critique of the direction society was taking at the time, and even today it still has some troubling warnings to be heeded. If you haven't read it be sure to grab a copy of it…

George Orwell's 1984... Defining Government Surveillance and Citizen Paranoia since 1948

This blog cannot not be complete without an article that deals with probably one of the best known political sci-fi stories of all times: George Orwell's 1984 (Signet Classics). This is probably the best known authoritarian model in contemporary literature, as it gave us terms we now use colloquially, such as "Big Brother Is Watching", and evidently the whole concept of government as an unwanted Big Brother snooping into our private lives, looking for ways to control us through propaganda and mass media.

One of the most interesting details about this story is the fact that Orwell was a member of the British Communist Party, and had been highly critical of them, as can be seen in Animal Farm, where he portrays the communists as the pigs who overthrow the human masters, only to become just like them in the end, which is a theme he will go on to expand on in 1984, when he talks about the way that revolutions work, and how they are nothing more than a change in the name of …

Rediscovering a love for Space Opera

Recently I decided that dystopias, post-apocalyptic scenarios and deep examinations of the human spirit were tiring me, I decided to look for something a little less demanding intellectually, and decided to turn to space opera, looking for fast paced, thrilling, action packed stories that were straight forward and didn't need to be read two or three times to find the hidden meaning behind the characters words and actions, but being the kind of reader that I am, and despite my earlier decision to keep space opera out of these little forays into the deeper meanings of Speculative Fiction, I find myself writing this article.

First off, there is a ton of Space Operas out there, many of them so bad that I couldn't go beyond the first chapter, in which the scantily clad heroine is chased by the bug-eyed monster... oh wait, that was actually a 50's movie, but you get my meaning. Those are precisely the kind of things that had led me away from space opera as a worthwhile sub-genr…