Dune & Mental Health

My Life in 2021

If you follow this blog, it should be quite obvious that it has been neglected over the past 16 months or so. The reason is both easy and difficult to explain. What it all boils down to is that I have been struggling with my mental health. If you’ve no desire to read this, please feel free to skip to the bottom – or click away if Dune doesn’t interest you either.

Early 2021 found me struggling to just keep my head above water. I knew that I probably needed to talk to someone, but I was hanging on, so I kept putting it off. Fast-forward to the summer where I found myself crushed by the weight of stress at work. Compile that with what I was already feeling in my day-to-day personal life? That was it. That was the proverbial straw. I got myself into counseling and a psychiatrist and started to take back control of my life.

Through counseling and medication, I am beginning to take back control of my life. I am getting back to myself, to the things that I enjoy and make me happy. Throughout all of 2021, I managed to read about four books. FOUR BOOKS?! Who even was this person? Reading has always been my happy place, my place to escape and leave all of my real troubles behind. The fact that I couldn’t handle reading should have been the largest, flashiest red flag of them all. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I was too deep in my own head to see it.

2022 is proving to be remarkably better – I’ve already read about a dozen or so books and while that isn’t a lot for me, I’m okay with it. The time that I am making for myself to read is special and I am doing with it what I can. I am also enjoying other activities that make me happy and have even started to dabble in fictional writing again. I have decided to start blogging and reviewing again as well. I’ve missed it and aside from some drama, I miss the community a great deal as well. I’m ready to come back into it with new-found strength and confidence.

So. FOUR BOOKS?! It would make it seem easy to pick out my best read of 2021 with numbers like that, right? And you know what? It was. It surprisingly wasn’t even horror. It was Dune by Frank Herbert.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I went into this. Science Fiction from 1965? Chosen for our office book club? I know a few people who love it, but I started reading with a fair amount of skepticism. I’d seen the old David Lynch movie, but it did nothing to set up what I ultimately found in this book.

Dune is the single-best book that I have ever read in regards to world building. It’s clear that Frank Herbert had every bit of this universe planned and well-thought out before he endeavored to create the world of Paul Atreides. I am talking about every single aspect – from religion to ecology, from politics to people. There was not a piece of this story that was not intentional and nuanced. Herbert has an acute understanding of religion and politics that I’ve not read outside of non-fiction specifically on the topic.

I’m not going to waste time and summarize this book because I think everyone knows the basic plot at this point. Here’s what I will say – stick with it. This is an incredibly hard book to start reading. Much like Paul, we, as the reader, are dropped into this new world for which we have no understanding. Use the glossary – it will become your best friend and will help you to gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening during a given scene. My glossary is worn out! Once you tackle a few chapters, you will not be able to put the book down.

Without spoilers, there is a scene in this novel that is, hands-down, my single favorite scene ever in a book. It makes up the entirety of Chapter 16 and involves a dinner party hosted by the Atreides family and invitees are both enemies and allies. There is not a wasted word during this thirty-one page sequence. Every look, uttered phrase, movement – it’s all intentional and purposeful. It’s a choreographed dance and it is exquisite.

Even if Science Fiction is not your go-to genre, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is intelligent and relevant, even after nearly 60 years.

5/5 Stars – If I could give it 10/5, I would.

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