Waiting for Dune | Mechanics' Institute

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Waiting for Dune

If you're anxiously awaiting Dune in theaters later this month, we are right there with you. Frank Herbert's science fiction masterpiece about the dangerous mining of a life-extending substance called "the spice" has fascinated readers ever since it was first published in 1965. A blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the 1966 Nebula Award and tied with Roger Zelazny's The Immortals for the Hugo Award that same year.

In 1984, Herbert's visionary novel was adapted into a film directed by David Lynch. Several years later, the book was adapted a second time as a miniseries that appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel. The 2021 adaptation, directed by Denis Villenueve, features a cast of heavyweight stars, including Timothee Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, and Charlotte Rampling.

But what to read while we're waiting? If you haven't read Dune, it's a good place to begin. If you've already read it, we have a list of staff-recommended titles, all available in the library. 

You might want to consider Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. This 1951 science fiction saga covers a thousand years and follows a band of exiles during the fall of an empire and the rise of a new one. When you're finished reading, you can watch the new miniseries by the same name. The Foundation TV series began streaming this month on Apple TV.

For those who enjoy the excitement of an alternate world escape, Dan Simmons' Hyperion (Doubleday, 1989) is perfect. Simmons uses the structure of The Canterbury Tales to explore the Hegemony of Man, a huge planetary network linked by farcaster portals. He crafts a vast universe dense with philosophical struggles. 

For a more classic utopian world, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed takes us to Tau Ceti, where Shevek, a brilliant physicist from the anarchist moon Anarres, risks his life by traveling to the mother planet of Urras in the hope of offering wisdom to its inhabitants and to reunite two long-alienated worlds. Le Guin's 1975 Nebula award winner was unusual for its exploration of the themes of anarchy and capitalism, among others. 

In the sea of alternate world fiction, a few of our newer picks include Pierce Brown's Red Rising (Del Ray, 2014), which takes place in a futuristic, color-coded caste society on Mars. As inferior members of society, the "Reds" work in the mines, believing that their labor will someday make the surface of Mars habitable. When it is discovered that the planet has had sprawling cities and people living on the surface for generations, the stage is set for revolution. 

The intricate and complex world in N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season (Orbit, 2015), also begins with social oppression against a backdrop of climate change. The first in Jemisin's Broken Earth series, the novel is told by three narrators -- all orogenes, an oppressed class of people capable of manipulating energy -- delivering intertwined tales. 

Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem (Tor Books, 2014), has the scope of Dune with an intriguing twist -- an alien-contact story that goes sideways -- the first  in the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy from China's most celebrated science fiction author. Liu's novel covers eons of time and weaves remarkable threads into a speculative tale about a secret military project set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution.

Posted on Oct. 13, 2021 by Celeste Steward