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I first read Dune as a teenager on a family holiday to visit my uncle in California. I had packed quite a few books for the trip and didn't start on it until well into the last week of the holiday. Despite this late start, however, I was instantly gripped and, if it was not for a lucky find of the first two sequels in a second-hand bookshop, would have run out of reading material before we returned home. Over the years I've returned to Dune and its sequels many times and on a recent trip to visit a friend down in Cardiff was inspired to start reading them again by his enthusiasm for the new films (I've yet to see any of them myself); it's a decision I have certainly not regretted.

Dune is like nothing else I've read, a statement that is probably not a surprise to anyone else who has read the book. It's hard to pin down exactly what makes it such a good book, but the closest I can get to describing it is that it feels "alive". Not only is the world one of the deepest and best realised of any novel I've read but, despite all the heavy foreshadowing and knowing exactly what was going to happen, I still couldn't help but wish that certain characters might survive, or events turn out differently. A mark of a brilliant work of fiction, I think, that each time you read it it feels like you're experiencing the story afresh, and that anything might happen. It's very rare to find a book where it seems that the characters might continue acting out their lives in the times when you're not reading.

More so than on previous reads I have been finding myself comparing Dune to The Lord of the Rings. Not because it is in any way derivative of Tolkien's masterpiece, but because it exudes the same sense of verisimilitude. Both works describe fictional worlds that feel lived in, with histories that are integral to their development, rather than simple window dressing. It's probably this quality which makes them my favourite science fiction and fantasy novels respectively.

The vast majority of the plot takes place on the planet Arrakis which is so deeply thought out from the culture of its people to the ecology of its desert ecosystem. So much work has clearly gone into Arrakis that you might expect the other planets to be mere sketches, but from only brief mentions they too seem fully fleshed out; the whole universe feels like an ecosystem of its own, each part interconnected and interdependent upon the others.

If you've not read Dune before I highly, highly recommend it. It is a work of fiction like nothing else. I could spend many hours waxing lyrical about the sophistication of the world or writing, but that would risk spoiling it for others.