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Close To My Heart

Many of us have made simple decisions which changed our lives. It could be as simple as turning right instead of left at an intersection or saying "Yes" rather than "No" to an invitiation. For many of us, that change happened after reading a book. Things weren't quite the same. We saw things differently, we found ourselves wondering different thoughts, we made decisions for different reasons. We were imbued with a sense of wonder. This series takes a look at the books that had such an impact.

[Editor's Note: Here you will find the other titles in the Close To My Heart series.

Frank Herbert
Chilton (1965)
Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert was born in 1920 in Tacoma, Washington. He served in the U.S. Navy as a photographer during World War II. After the war, he attended the University of Washington and later worked at the Seattle Star, the Oregon Statesman and, as a writer and editor for the San Francisco Examiner's California Living magazine. He began writing SF in the 50s with short stories appearing in Startling Stories and other magazines. His career as a novelist began with the publication of The Dragon in the Sea in 1955. Herbert began researching Dune in 1959 and completed it in 1965. It was serialized in Analog magazine in two separate parts in 1963 and 1965 and won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1965 and shared the Hugo Award in 1966. Frank Herbert died of pancreatic cancer on February 11, 1986, in Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of 65.

ISFDB Bibliography
Dune: The Official Website

A review by Alma A. Hromic

Map of Dune The original Dune was published in 1965; its two sequels, completing the original trilogy, followed over the next decade, with Children of Dune making an appearance in 1979. I was two when the first book was published, thirteen by the time the third one came out, and fourteen when I first crossed paths with Herbert's world. When the first omnibus edition came out, a 1979 Gollancz hardcover with a yawning worm maw on the cover, I scrambled for it. I still have that book.

I was fourteen years old when Frank Herbert shone a strange and penetrating light into my world, and it was in that light that I first came to know many things. About the many kinds of love -- the selfish versus the unselfish, the romantic versus the passionate versus the pragmatic versus the loyal, the love of people versus the love of power, and how none of these can exists by itself but instead twine and tangle until the heart of any average sentient human being aches from the weight of love laid upon it. About the many ways to hate, and the even more ways to be damaged by that hate -- and how the hater is no less damaged than the hated. About agendas and how they could be hidden, thwarted and pursued. About how it is possible, if you have a certain bent, to find other people's suffering beautiful, even necessary -- or to step in front of something monstrous and take upon yourself, freely, the whole weight of suffering meant for another human being, a nation, a world.

About how Messiahs can be human. About how Messiahs can only ever be human, no matter how much divinity they carry.

The themes of this work were enormous and wide-ranging -- from Machiavellian politics to ecological change and its consequence, to mystical religious transformation. Many of these ideas took me years to fully take in -- fourteen or fifteen is far too young for some of the ramifications, unless you're one of Paul Muad'dib's children -- but they have percolated through my own visions, since. When I wrote the desert sequences of The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days, for instance, they may have owed much to what I knew of places such as Morocco, which are firmly in our own world -- but the roots of my own world, without the spice or the great worms or the sheer breadth of Herbert's vision, are sunk deep into the mystic sands of Arrakis.

Dune Messiah Children of Dune Before I took on Dune, I had been reading such science fiction as Isaac Asimov's robot stories. With all the credit due to Asimov, the difference was vast -- turning to Dune after the robot stories felt rather like climbing into the captain's chair of the Enterprise after gaining your wings in the cockpit of a two-seater Cessna. Herbert's ideas were huge, the worlds involved were immeasurably complex , and it was a revelation to me that it was possible to weave such disparate threads as a lush and almost pure high-fantasy background of a feudal imperial government together with concepts like the Bene Gesserit, the Tleilaxu, the Fremen, and spice. I fell into the Fremen culture and sank into it with something approaching awe -- every detail was pertinent, beautifully thought out, necessary. Frank Herbert was teaching me world building by immersion.

Dune opened up the possibility of other worlds for me in a way that no other book had done before it -- or since. It was impossible to have this moment of awakening twice in a lifetime. But Dune changed the way I looked at words, at history and at the future, at life, at the stars. I was young enough to be changed by it, old enough to understand that I was being changed by it, aware enough to realise that what I had been handed was a cup of pure spice essence which would reveal all manner of things to me. I don't know if I was ready for it. I don't know if I would be ready for it now, if I picked it up for the first time today. All I can say is that I will always carry its gifts deep within me.

Copyright © 2006 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves." When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her international success, The Secrets of Jin Shei, has been translated into ten languages worldwide, and its follow-up, Embers of Heaven, is coming out in 2006. She is also the author of the fantasy duology The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days, and is currently working on a new YA trilogy to be released in the winter of 2006.

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