Dune: Explaining the novels

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.” The Dune universe began in 1965 when American author Frank Herbert published Dune and changed the science fiction genre forever. The bestselling novel, set far in the future where intelligent computers have been banned, won the inaugural Nebula Award for best novel in 1965 and the 1966 Hugo Award.

It has been adapted into two films by David Lynch and Denis Villeneuve respectively, and also into a TV series. Dune became a franchise as Herbert added five sequels to create a series.

Dune first edition
A 1965 first edition of Dune by Frank Herbert

When Frank Herbert died in 1986, his son Brian took the baton, co-writing prequels and sequels with Kevin J Anderson. This sci-fi franchise is active with Brian Herbert and Anderson regularly releasing new installments. However, the first six books by Frank Herbert remain at the core of the Dune reading experience. They are, in reading order, Dune (1965), Dune Messiah (1969), Children of Dune (1976), God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984), and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985).

The Dune universe, or Duniverse, or Dune chronicles, revolves around the spice melange, which is only found on the desert planet of Arrakis. Melange is a drug that lengthens life, heightens awareness, unlocks visions of the future and facilitates interstellar space travel. However, it is guarded by massive sandworms in a barren desert-style landscape. There is an empire along with plots and characters with bad intentions. Paul Atreides, played by Kyle MacLachlan in the 1984 movie and by Timothée Chalamet in the 2021 film, is the hero of the first two books and the films.

First editions of Dune, published by Chilton Books in 1965, are highly collectible. Until publishing Dune, Chilton printed car repair manuals. The moody dust jacket designed by John Schoenherr adds to the aura of this book. AbeBooks has sold three signed first editions of the original Dune novel for $15,000 each and a first edition set of the first three Dune novels for $14,300. Also be aware of the Folio Society’s scarce editions of the original novel.

The original Dune series by Frank Herbert

Six novels written between 1965 and 1985. Frank Herbert died in 1986.

More books to explore the Dune universe

Various companion books, and special editions exist.
Bonded leather. Illustrated endpapers by John Schoenherrr.
Full red leather. Illustrations by John Schoenherrr.
Book 1. Illustrations by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin.
Companion book featuring Frank Herbert's papers and manuscripts, and Spice Planet, an original novel.
Twelve color plates by John Schoenherr.
Companion guide explaining the characters, races, locations, animals, and geography of Frank Herbert's original books.

Dune box sets

Two boxed sets for the original series, and one for the later Legends of Dune series.

Dune novels by Brian Herbert & Kevin J Anderson

Prequels and sequels split into several series, first co-authored book published in 1999.
Prelude to Dune trilogy book 1

Prelude to Dune trilogy book 2
Prelude to Dune trilogy book 3
Legends of Dune trilogy book 1
Legends of Dune trilogy book 2
Legends of Dune trilogy book 3
Book 1 in Dune 7 series, designed to conclude the original series.
Book 2 in Dune 7 series.
Book 1 in Heroes of Dune series.
Book 2 in Heroes of Dune series.
Book 1 in Great Schools of Dune series, a prequel trilogy.
Book 2 in Great Schools of Dune series.
Book 3 in Great Schools of Dune series.
Book 1 of the Caladan trilogy of prequel novels.
Book 2 of the Caladan trilogy of prequel novels.


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