Dune has re-entered the mass consciousness after a long while. Although readers and consumers of other forms of mass media alike have felt its influence. If you have seen Star Wars or even Game of Thrones, you have felt Frank Herbert's influence through other writers and creators.
Dune is a sci-fi/high Fantasy epic on par with Lord of The Rings. The comparison is not made lightly but the claim can live up to and even defy expectations on occasion. The film 'Dune Part One' only manages to make it to chapter 33 and ends on a cliffhanger because the real journey is about to unfold and there is too much to get to, plotwise, that would stretch the runtime into Zack Snyder territory.
Readers follow the tale of Paul Atreides (marvellously portrayed by Timothee Chalimet in the movie adaptation) who is at the nexus point of a lot of religious, political and royal machinations. It is the definitive tale of the 'Survivor to Saviour' trope.
The known galaxy is ruled by an emperor and the most precious of resources in this galaxy is the 'Spice Melange' a multi-faceted substance that allows for space travel, longer lifespans and other hidden, more sinister uses. The spice can only be extracted from one place, the desert planet of Arrakis, more commonly known as the Dune planet. The royal houses exploit, colonise and strip mine Arrakis, to the great chagrin of its locals, the Fremen, blue-eyed analogues of the bedouin desert dwelling tribes of yore.
If you have even remotely paid attention to fantasy tropes, you have noticed that the vast majority of it is based on western influences. Whereas Dune takes inspiration from middle-eastern and Islamic lore. You will learn many Arabic terms such as Lisan-al-Ghaib, Muad'dib and Mahadi, which are the monikers Paul Atreides adopts throughout his treacherous journey to deal with royalty and unite the wild Fremen tribes of Arrakis. Dune relies heavily on Islam to build its universe. For the author, Islam is a major part of human heritage and so by extension its future. His use of Islamic lore and themes is not just for aesthetic reasons either; it evinces a deep reverence towards the beliefs and histories of a wide variety of Muslims.
The book does not deal with only one theme, unlike Lord of the Rings, it takes its time to talk of science, ecology, warfare, social engineering, religious customs, politics and above all the condition of the human soul and development. This may sound like a lot, but Herbert does it all so entertainingly, once you start the book and become familiar with all the players in this galactic game, your mind will start theorising about the next turn and the author will always manage to surprise you.
The strife and conflicts in Dune are not a problem to be solved, but a story to be experienced. Herbert's prose has the quality of a history lesson being related by someone who has lived through the events themselves. As you read, the text will also stir your ancestral and religious traditions and bring them to the forefront.
It is hard for us, living in the globalised, modern and hyper-connected present to truly come to term with what colonisation did to our country and culture. Dune addresses this in real time and gives you glimpses into how the fraught relationship between coloniser and indigenous peoples can be negotiated into a terse truce.
Herbert doesn't do the one thing most fantasy authors are culpable of; generalising concepts, characters and cultures. The author takes his time to show the games within games of how any group of people can have schisms and be at cross-purposes within their own tribes. It is done masterfully.
Herbert also has more than a penchant of having vastly erudite and eloquent people philosophise about the nature of human existence and their agency among the stars. The dialogue can feel harsh at times, lacking any connection to the plot as a whole. As such, the storytelling can be construed as weak, and the narratives as confusing. If you have only watched the movie and not read the books, you will struggle to find the connections between scenes. Something Peter Jackson's adaptation did not suffer from because relativistically speaking, Dune tells a much more complex tale that spans vast amounts of time both into the future and the past.
Much like Tolkein, Herbert is a bit of a cunning linguist and relies on a lot of terms from many languages apart from Arabic to enrich the intricate tapestry he weaves through the oral traditions of the characters. Books one and two come with a glossary of terms at the end which provides definitions, but you can even make do without it. Much like how, when we come across a new English term and can deduce it's meaning just by reading the rest of the sentence, Herbert does the same with multiple real world and fictional languages, the true mark of a master wordsmith and storyteller.
It bears mentioning that Dune is cool. Very cool in fact. There are eldritch and chthonic sandworms that are essentially gods of the desert planet of Arrakis, they cannot be tamed or controlled and the entire planet is subject to the whims of Shai-Hulud. The fight sequences in the book are cinematic and justified very well. Every object, tool and MacGuffin has poignant and well thought out lore about its inception, invention and proliferation. Even the clothes the Fremen wear are for survival purposes and it is truly a joy to read about how an entire culture of humans can survive and thrive without the most precious of resources: Water.
Dune is the best representation of Muslim culture in fiction to date. If you have Islamic heritage you owe it to yourself to read this book. A great mode of consuming this particular epic would be to watch Denis Villeneuve's film and then pick up book one of Dune to get all the little easter eggs. The film does all the heavy lifting for visualisation and character attachment and all you have to do is let your mind flow into Herbert's rich and sinister universe.