The Book That Inspired Me: Dune by Frank Herbert
A book that I've found profoundly inspirational is Dune by Frank Herbert. I first read this book nearly twenty years ago, barely out of high school. I was blown away by the scope of the story, not only by the storytelling craft but also the technical aspect of the writing. I love reading science fiction but I find hard science fiction intimidating to read and even more intimidating to write. Dune was the first hard sci-fi book that drew me in and captivated me. From the Dune series I went on to read his other works and became a fan. What struck me as different about Dune was that it directly tackled ecology issues without preaching or hitting the reader over the head. He also explored issues of charismatic leadership, the relationships between power, religion and politics, sanity and human survival under extreme conditions. I never thought I would find something that equaled J.R.R Tolkien's work in scope and complexity but Herbert is on his level. Tolkien remains my favorite author and Herbert is my second.
Dune is about House Atreides and the link it will forever establish with the planet Dune. The honorable and stoic Duke Leto Atreides, his family and staff must leave his beautiful home world of Caladan and go to the desert planet Arrakis (Dune) the heart of the spice trade. This planet is the only place in the known universe that holds the powerful spice drug; it is central in the struggle for power and dominance. It is necessary for inter-galactic travel and for many other things and everyone depends on it. Everyone wants to control it. There are fierce, free tribes who are native to Arrakis, major houses and minor houses, the imperial house and a powerful, secretive religious sisterhood that all plot for control. The sisterhood have a secret weapon - a messiah that they intend to create through their ancient breeding program to control the spice but everyone's plans go wrong when one woman of the sisterhood, Lady Jessica decides to rebel and has a son for the Duke instead of a daughter. The Duke's son, Paul Atreides, escapes the control of the sisterhood and survives the ferocious political intrigues and fighting between the rival houses. His survival upsets everyone's plans. Turmoil and chaos ensue when House Atreides is attacked by its rivals. This boy grows up and becomes the fabled messianic leader who returns with a great force to seize power.
Herbert was a master at writing political/religious intrigue along with laying the historical groundwork for the vast scope of the first book. He brought this series alive. He also takes this panoramic, sweeping story and makes it personal. The greatest thing I learned from him is the importance of research and getting ideas from your immediate surroundings. He researched many ideas before he wrote the story and got the germinating idea from a trip to an Oregon beach.
Author Bio: Victoria A. Jeffrey grew up in Portland, Oregon, attended Portland Community College and studied graphic design. She is an author and an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction and non-fiction. She has written The Lady Moons, as well as three collections of poetry, some short stories and a book of fairy tales. She is currently working on the Secret Doorway Tales children's fantasy series.