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DUNE

11 June 2005

Good, now onto Dune. The first week I was here it saved my life in a very real, legally binding way. Due to an unforeseen, yet important businesstrip abroad I was stranded at the camping and couldn't yet get to the office. For four full days, I had to find some way to entertain myself. You could say: excellent opportunity to get some comics done, but even with a working ethic that will get you three pages done per day, there is a limit to what one can stand when drawing a sequential piece before ones head explodes in a violent eruption of braintissue from below the medulla oblongata.

Which, in layman's terms, means that there was a point at which my hand said 'no more, I beg of you' and decided on itself to call it a day. The pencil would drop dramatically to the plastic caravan sail they call a 'floor' and I would be sitting there quite stumped. That is when I would reach out to the thick pocket my dear friend Tom gratiously bestowed upon me and dive into the politically unstable and religiously stirring climate of a barren desert planet called Arrakis.

Interestingly, I was already quite aware of the wiles and ways of Dune. In years long passed I had played the first real-time strategy game ever called Dune II, made by that wonderful company called Westwood, that later got gobbled up by The Fucking Devil, who drained its body of all life and water and left its dehydrated carcass out in the sun where the vultures could feed on it, on its way to the next hapless, defenceless victim to abuse and bite. Little did The resource-wasting Fucking Devil know there would be a time that all the little underdogs of the world would band together to tear at its flesh and devour it alive, to rid this planet once and for all of the worst thing the gaming industry had ever spawned forth. But I digress.

I already knew of sandworms and Fremen and Sardaukar, of Atreides and Harkonnen and the evil Ordos, of the emperor, the mentat and the valuable spice around which everything revolved. But these were symbols, flat representations of the awesome weight they carry in the book! I love every page of it's quarter-Bible pagecount. Frank Herbert was a very smart writer, blending future and past events, and the inner thoughts and suspicions of all the characters together into a skillfully directed unrolling of events and surprises. The landscape of Dune is rife with political intrigue (something I dearly love in science-fiction and fantasy) and the sci-fi / war overtures are grand and fresh.

But there is one thing that surprised me the most, for it was a thing I had not expected. I was ready to meet a book of hardcore science-fiction, of machinations and quirky Dutch names such as 'De Vries'. Consider my surprise when I found out that Dune was about science nor fiction. There are subtle hints in the first part, but in the second one it reveals itself in its totality: Dune is a book about religion. About prophets and the difficulties they endure when they are attributed with Messiah qualities. This book is about Jesus, Mohammed, Buddah or any other messiah you choose to believe in. If I could, I would press this book in the faces of religious extremists; it is a mirror that shows them how religion truly works, in a swash of fiction with tendrils that run deeply into mainly the Islamic culture (words as jihad, rammadan and circumcision are often used). But it's also a beautiful and revealing insight into what a messiah-figure might go through, if he really is as intelligent as his followers claim.

Acch, I don't want to sound so pretentious. I just really like this book and its unexpected core message. I'll leave examination of its obvious parallels to our world to other, more academic people.

Roderick.