Actually, the great Dune film did get made. Its name is Star Wars. In early drafts, this story of a desert planet, an evil emperor, and a boy with a galactic destiny also included warring noble houses and a princess guarding a shipment of something called “aura spice”. All manner of borrowings from Dune litter the Star Wars universe, from the Bene Gesserit-like mental powers of the Jedi to the mining and “moisture farming” on Tattooine. Herbert knew he’d been ripped off, and thought he saw the ideas of other SF writers in Lucas’s money-spinning franchise. He and a number of colleagues formed a joke organisation called the We’re Too Big to Sue George Lucas Society.Hari Kunzru
I always had the impression that the better the book, the harder it gets to translate it into a great movie – and Dune is the perfect example. It’s remarkable how it stayed relevant throughout the decades thanks to its varied themes and complexity. I got introduced into the universe by the original David Lynch adaptation, which sparked my interest for the books about 15 years ago. After reading the first novel I was amazed by how much better the book was, how much more there was to discover in the long, six-books series. I definitely recommend it in full!
As Paul’s destiny becomes clear to him, he begins to have visions “of fanatic legions following the green and black banner of the Atreides, pillaging and burning across the universe in the name of their prophet Muad’Dib”. If Paul accepts this future, he will be responsible for “the jihad’s bloody swords”, unleashing a nomad war machine that will up-end the corrupt and oppressive rule of the emperor Shaddam IV (good) but will kill untold billions (not so good) in the process. In 2015, the story of a white prophet leading a blue-eyed brown-skinned horde of jihadis against a ruler called Shaddam produces a weird funhouse mirror effect, as if someone has jumbled up recent history and stuck the pieces back together in a different order.
Though in his later years he enjoyed huge success, Herbert, the man who dreamed of greening the desert, had mixed feelings about the future. In Dune, he has Kynes, the “First Planetologist of Arrakis” (and hero of the novel’s first draft) muse thatbeyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase. This is as true of humans in the finite space of a planetary ecosystem as it is of gas molecules in a sealed flask. The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive.