Dune by Frank Herbert is not only an SFF must read, but a story I hear far too little about in my circles of geekdom.
This was a re-read for me. I'd read this book back in high school and remembered tragically little of it. I remember being attracted to it because I'd seen a T.V. mini-series on it. I also saw a movie based on it. Both of which fails to work for me, but it was enough to get me to go back to the source material.
This begs the request: I'd love to see a Netflix or Amazon series tackle this one. We need a good film adaptation.
Told from a third-person omniscient perspective, you’re presented with a narrative approach that you see less and less in modern novels. Third person limited gives the reader a more intimate experience and puts mystery and suspense in the driver’s seat. Third-person omniscient tends to give a story a more mythic tone (like much of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings). It also—in the case of Herbert’s masterpiece—puts dramatic irony in the driver’s seat. When reading it, you may find that Herbert tells you something that other characters in the room are unaware of, driving the tension higher.
The worldbuilding in the story is unshakably immersive. The planet Arrakis might remind some of Tatooine or Jakku from Star Wars. The melange, or “the spice,” functions as the universe’s single most valuable substance. It’s a powerfully addictive drug that lengthens life, the senses, and cognitive function. Additionally, it’s the key ingredient for space travel.
Herbert doesn’t shy away from the political implications of his worldbuilding. Dune manages to pace political intrigue with action in a way that Lucas must have aspired to with Star Wars 1-3, but because Herbert gives us that expectation from the very beginning, he doesn’t disappoint his audience.
The characters are complex, but the main protagonist is a bit off-putting. He's not a poorly drawn character; he's very realistic, but that realism isn't very likable to my tastes. The other characters are excellent, and more than make up for what the main protagonist doesn't do for me.
If you haven't read this story yet, and you're a sci-fi fan, I definitely recommend giving it a try.