Frank Herbert: Incredible World Builder or Just Plain Confusing?

Have you found yourself reading a book in which the world was built so intricately, and so realistically that you honestly thought you were there? The writing was so well done that as the words flowed from the pages, you could picture every part of the world in your mind?

I have. It’s an incredible feeling, to feel like you are a part of something bigger and way more interesting than the life you live here on Earth. Instead of sitting on your couch, you are actually on Arrakis mining for spice. Or you are trekking through Middle Earth. Or you are on a boat of the coast of Europe with an attractive shirtless sailor. Reading is all about putting yourself in a different world and having different experiences than your own and to have this experience the author has to be good at world building! World building is one of the most important components of writing, and if done incorrectly, will ruin the book completely. The ability to build a world from scratch, to create laws, unspoken societal norms, creatures and characters that all fit together in harmony is something that is not easily done and this can make or break a story. Frank Herbert is one of the many authors that is able to do this well… so well that he is actually one of the world best science-fiction authors and has one multiple awards for his books!

I started reading his first novel called Dune when I was about 10 years old. I remember the cover well, however that that time I was too young to understand the intricacies of Herbert’s writing and did not finish it… or remember any of it! Later in life I picked it back up and boy was it a handful!

Herbert writes his stories like you are already a part of his world and know everything there is to know about it. Let me explain this in better detail. In other books that I have read, if the author tries to introduce a new item into the story, they usually explain a little bit about it so the reader knows what the item does and somewhat of what it looks like. Herbert does not do this and often will mention an item, place or even a person with no explanation whatsoever. This may be why Herbert included a glossary in this book and I found myself consistently referring back to figure out what items were and what their purpose was as many times I had no idea what items did until about halfway through the book!

This may make some of you cringe, however I found it incredible and made me more excited to get through the book. Although his writing style is advanced and can present as challenging at times, his ability to world build is astounding. Herbert is able to write his books in such a way that you honestly feel like you are there. In our world when we speak about items, we do not not give descriptions or any information on the item, we just say the name and in this way this is how Herbert writes. He writes like you already know, and in this you feel like you are there learning and experiencing things for the first time with him.

His intricate writing style isn’t the only incredible thing about his world building, he also speaks greatly about the human condition and what it is really like to be human. He is able to weave politics, environmentalism and technology into his novels in underhanded ways that just add to his incredible and relatable worlds he builds… and there are many!

What do you think? Are you a fan of Frank Herbert’s novels or are there other fictional worlds that speak to you? Drop a comment below!

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