Or why you should read Dune
by Frank Herbert
There are some works of Science Fiction that through their quality or influence have become essentially timeless classics. Just what these books are might vary person to person, since everyone makes their own totally valid canon. Dune is a novel that for me is absolutely canon, and maybe epitomizes what it means to be a classic work of Science Fiction. And I suspect that if you've read it, it's in your canon too.
Dune is the story of Paul Atreides, a would be messiah king in an alien culture. Paul is the sole ducal heir of a charismatic vassal of an interstellar empire. Due to disfavour with the Padishah Emperror, the Atreides family is being sent from their feudal home planet to the harsh desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. Arrakis is a deeply inhospitable planet nearly devoid of water, covered in deserts ruled by monstrous sandworms, home to the rebellious Fremen clans, and infested with agents of the hated Harkonnen rival family. Arrakis is also the source of Spice, the most sought after resource and drug in the universe. To survive this hellish world and betrayal from all around Paul Atreides will find himself at the crossroads of prophecy; a potential Lisan al-Gaib messiah to the Fremen and a possible Kwisatz Haderach, the foretold messiah of the Bene Gesserit. A position that might give Paul a chance to survive or give him the fulcrum he needs to disturb the order of the universe.
Dune is one of those unique, virtually perfect stories. The elaborate world of Dune; the cultures, the politics, the sheer conviction of the thing, is a thing to be marvelled at. In a world filled with novels that show futuristic cultures built on extrapolations Western Civilization, all rationality and lense-flare shiny, Dune really stands out using references from the Arabic cultures, the Byzantine Empire, and British Colonialism to create a much more original world. Add in some truly strange, psychedelic mysticism and aesthetic and Dune feels truly like an alien world. Dune is also significant for how it examines the way charismatic, messianic leaders can co-opt belief to gain power. This is a fundamentally human experience, repeated through our history, and one often not explored with the honesty and empathy on display in Dune. Dune is also one of the most interesting examinations of cultural collision and power systems in a colonial environment I've ever read, which is particularly striking given when the novel was published. This is a blisteringly smart and very strange novel that stands out from and above most other novels.
Like... here's the thing: Dune has a bunch of sequels, some of which are regarded as quite good. I have never read them, and maybe, probably never will. Dune is such a singular, such an important book to me that I am not interested in having it diluted or scarred by lesser subsequent works. Dune is... everything it needs to be and I think I'm happiest with just that. *That* is how much I love this book.
I would recommend Dune to literally every human.