Some might question my claim to geekhood on the grounds that I have never read Tolkein or Herbert. Frank Herbert’s Dune is frequently described as the best science fiction novel ever. Over the past few weeks I have been reading a little bit more of it every evening before going to sleep. Whatever else it is, Dune is an extraordinary feat of the imagination. Anyone, like me, coming to the book fresh, but familiar with last century’s speculative fiction, will be struck immediately by how influential it was. Half the genre creations produced in the forty years since it was written seem to have stolen ideas from it.
I’m not giving anything away by saying that a population of sand dwellers called the “Fremen” plays a significant part in the plot. I am about half way through and, so far, Herbert has introduced us individually to several proud, hardy warriors who say things like “They have my countenance!”, use insults like “spawn of a lizard!”, and wield both knives fashioned from the teeth of giant sand worms and exotic, mighty names like “Stilgar”, “Jamis”, “Farok”, and “Liet”. Yesterday evening, I was reduced to giggles by the revelation that one of the female Fremen, “Harah”, was previously married to another proud, hardy Fremen warrior who, until he was slain in a duel, went by the name of “Geoff”. I am waiting to find out if his full title was “Geoff, Controller of Credit for the Empire of Toys’R’Us”.