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Frank Herbert's Vast Dune Universe

A beginner's guide

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • March 05, 2024

Frank Herbert's manuscript for Dune was rejected by more than 20 publishers before finally finding a home with Chilton Books, a printing house best known for auto repair manuals. Published in 1965, the epic is often described as the best-selling science fiction novel in history. It won the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel and the Hugo Award in 1966 and has been translated into dozens of languages and sold upwards of 20 million copies.

Dune was adapted into a 1984 film and a 2000 miniseries. It has also inspired board games and a series of video games. In 2021, Denis Villeneuve released Part One of his adaptation, a planned trilogy. The visually stunning film won six Oscars. Dune: Part Two was released on March 1, to largely positive reviews. If you're among the legion of fans who are inspired by the new films to dive into the vast literary universe of Dune, congratulations! You have a wonderful adventure ahead. Here's a guide to help you get started.

Start with the original trilogy!

Set tens of thousands of years in the future in an intergalactic feudal civilization on the Planet of Arrakis, where powerful noble houses are battling for control of resources, Dune (1965) chronicles the origin story of Paul Atreides, the scion of the House of Atreides. Identified as a messiah-like figure with the power to lead his people toward a new era, Paul embarks on an epic journey of war, betrayal, and mysticism. Villeneuve's first two films span the original novel. Dune Messiah (1969), which will likely serve as the basis for Villeneuve's third installment, continues Paul's story and The Children of Dune (1976) chronicles the rise of his son and successor, Leto II.

Frank Herbert's sequel series

By all reports, Frank Herbert considered his series complete after the first trilogy, but fans clamored for sequels so he acquiesced with three more novels. These are set a thousand years later and follow the story of Leto Atreides II.

Herbert passed away in 1986, a year after publishing Chapterhouse: Dune, leaving the storyline of his second series incomplete. Decades later, his son Brian Herbert and coauthor Kevin J. Anderson completed the original series with two more books based on notes Frank left behind.

The Prequels

Over a decade after his father's death, Brian Herbert enlisted the help of science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson to coauthor a trilogy of prequel novels. Relying on notes left behind by the author, the Prelude to Dune series is set in the years leading up to the events of Dune, introducing the major players from the original book.

The duo followed up with The Legends of Dune, a second prequel trilogy, this one set during the Butlerian Jihad, an era discussed in Dune that occurred 10,000 years before the events of the first book, setting the stage for the world that Paul Atreides inherited.

The next trilogy from Herbert and Anderson is the Great Schools of Dune, taking place immediately after the Butlerian Jihad. This series establishes several key aspects of Paul's future story.

Their most recent prequel series is called The Caladan Trilogy and it focuses on the Atreides family, Paul and his parents, Leto 1 and Jessica, during their life on Caladan, just before their move to Arrakis and the events of Dune.

To reiterate, we strongly recommend reading Frank Herbert's original trilogy before getting in to the prequels, but if you'd like to read the prequels in chronological order, here you go:

The Heroes of Dune

Neither a prequel or sequel, this series by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson focuses on the thousand-year time period between Frank Herbert's two original series:

Short stories and novellas

Along with the novels, here are some collections of short fiction to round out the series.

Short stories and novellas by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

As we mentioned, the Dune Universe is vast! Hopefully this guide helps you map out your plan for enjoying some of the great literature behind the thrilling new film series.

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