I embark on yet another reading project, Frank Herbert's Dune series. I bought them all at one point or another over the years, but (I think) I've only read the first two. (I'm sure I had reasons for that.) Just doing the six Frank-written books; there are currently more than a dozen others written by his son and a co-author, with more coming.
This is a re-read, but I'm not sure how many times I've read it before; my guess is twice, but not anytime in the past four decades. Fun fact: it's one of the older books on my shelves, a Science Fiction Book Club edition from the 1960s! That's the John Schoenherr cover over there on your right. And clicking on it will take you to Amazon, where someone is offering a similar first-printing edition for $2300.
I think I'd part with my copy for … oh, say, $2200.
Thirteen-year-old me had previously read the heavily abridged serialization of the last half of the book in Analog magazine in 1965. I'd only just started reading Analog in July of 1964 (because I loved the cover for the serialization of Sleeping Planet by William R. Burkett, Jr.) So I missed the first part of the book. Ah well.
Enough nostalgia. In Herbert's far-flung future, the known galaxy is ruled by an Emperor, his rule supported by a shaky set of alliances between various noble houses, each with its own planetary systems. Thanks to the evil machinations of Baron Harkkonen, the rival House Atreides is forced off their (very nice) planet of Caledan, onto the bleak desert world of Arrakis. Arrakis's only virtue is that it's the only known source of melange, or "spice", which members of the Spacing Guild require to guide their ships between stars. Melange also endows its consumers with weird psychic powers, including a sorta-precognition.
But soon enough the Harkkonens hatch part II of their dastardly plot: an infiltrator in House Atreides will fatally betray Duke Leto, and set up Arrakis for a Harkkonen takeover. Barely escaping with their lives are the Duke's 15-year-old son, Paul and his mother Jessica. They take up with a tribe of roving desert nomads, the Fremen. We follow (mostly) Paul as his plan for revenge unfolds.
Fans of the book know I am leaving out a lot of stuff: religion, political intrigue, supporting characters, knife fights, giant worms, pregnancies. And a vocabulary that (I'd guess) involved dumping out Arabic Scrabble tiles onto a large table, arranging tastefully, and transliterating into our own character set. Herbert did a masterful job of universe-building and this book nabbed both Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel. He truly transports the reader to a world of wonder. (And at least some of that wonder involves thinking: I wonder what drugs Herbert was taking while he wrote this?)