I was fifteen years old the first time I read Dune. I had been an avid since I was eight years old when I began reading novels in the third grade, and I read the books that inspired me over and over again.
I read all kinds of things, but at the age of fifteen I read mostly fiction, and that age when I first read Dune in 1984, I found it to be somewhat dense and challenging.
I had taken that first copy from the carousel of the library at the alternative high-school I was attending, and which I dropped out of a few month later. I read that copy, perhaps not as carefully as I should, but as carefully as I could, and I went to see the motion picture when it came out in 1985.
Needless to say, I found David Lynch’s adaptation to be one of the worst movies ever made, and with that Dune passed from my thoughts for a time.
However, in the summer of 1988 I was visiting a friend in Montana, and I picked up a copy of Dune from the bookstore in Bigfork. I needed something to read on the bus ride home to Minneapolis.
Four years had passed since my first go at it, and my window on the world had opened wide enough for me to be able to engage the book in a completely different way. I was hooked. I was nineteen years old.
Dune changed my life.
Since then I have read Dune and all six books in the original Dune series, eight times over, as well as everything else Frank Herbert wrote.
He was a giant.
I have given away dozens of copies of Dune throughout my life, and recommended it to more people than I can count, always with the words this book will change your life.
Many of them came back to me to tell me that it did.
Frank Herbert wrote science fiction, but the science he wrote into his fiction had less to do with spaceships and laser beams (though it had those things), and more to do with the science of politics, religion, ecology and psychology, with the human person at the center of his imagination.
Through his insight Herbert challenges the reader to explore what it means to be human, and he asks open-ended questions about the range of human potential in a way that allows the reader to believe in those possibilities for themselves, and his own view of the range of human potential is inspiring. He believe that we can do more, be more, see more of the world than our senses allow…if we are disciplined he believes we can do it; if we are attentive to the world around us, and if we cultivate within ourselves the desire to live a life without fear we will secure a future for humanity beyond our solar system and spread through the galaxy.
He died thirty-nine years ago today, and when he passed a heroic light left the world.