Get caught up on Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction series before the new film adaptation hits next month! The world of Dune can be mind-bending and daunting, but it is well worth the read. The following is our guide to the books in the series and their intended reading order.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Dune takes place in a distant future in which the galaxy is governed by a far-reaching empire, with planets divided among powerful ruling Houses. Due to a past war against artificial intelligence, the empire rejects the use of computers for anything from complex calculations to space navigation, instead relying on humans who enhance their minds with a drug known as “the spice.” The series begins with House Atreides (and the House’s heir, Paul) gaining ownership of the desert planet Arrakis, which is the only known source of the spice that is so vital to the empire’s reign. But the House’s arrival on Arrakis may be part of a sinister plot – or, perhaps, the fulfillment of an age-old prophecy.
WARNING: Book descriptions may contain spoilers for previous entries in the series.
Frank Herbert, 1965
Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for…
When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.
A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.
Frank Herbert, 1969
Dune Messiah continues the story of Paul Atreides, better known–and feared–as the man christened Muad’Dib. As Emperor of the known universe, he possesses more power than a single man was ever meant to wield. Worshipped as a religious icon by the fanatical Fremen, Paul faces the enmity of the political houses he displaced when he assumed the throne–and a conspiracy conducted within his own sphere of influence.
And even as House Atreides begins to crumble around him from the machinations of his enemies, the true threat to Paul comes to his lover, Chani, and the unborn heir to his family’s dynasty…
Children of Dune
Frank Herbert, 1976
The Children of Dune are twin siblings Leto and Ghanima Atreides, whose father, the Emperor Paul Muad’Dib, disappeared in the desert wastelands of Arrakis nine years ago. Like their father, the twins possess supernormal abilities–making them valuable to their manipulative aunt Alia, who rules the Empire in the name of House Atreides.
Facing treason and rebellion on two fronts, Alia’s rule is not absolute. The displaced House Corrino is plotting to regain the throne while the fanatical Fremen are being provoked into open revolt by the enigmatic figure known only as The Preacher. Alia believes that by obtaining the secrets of the twins’ prophetic visions, she can maintain control over her dynasty.
But Leto and Ghanima have their own plans for their visions–and their destinies…
God Emperor of Dune
Frank Herbert, 1981
Millennia have passed on Arrakis, and the once-desert planet is green with life. Leto Atreides, the son of the world’s savior, the Emperor Paul Muad’Dib, is still alive but far from human. To preserve humanity’s future, he sacrificed his own by merging with a sandworm, granting him near immortality as God Emperor of Dune for the past thirty-five hundred years.
Leto’s rule is not a benevolent one. His transformation has made not only his appearance but his morality inhuman. A rebellion, led by Siona, a member of the Atreides family, has risen to oppose the despot’s rule. But Siona is unaware that Leto’s vision of a Golden Path for humanity requires her to fulfill a destiny she never wanted–or could possibly conceive…
Heretics of Dune
Frank Herbert, 1984
Leto Atreides, the God Emperor of Dune, is dead. In the fifteen hundred years since his passing, the Empire has fallen into ruin. The great Scattering saw millions abandon the crumbling civilization and spread out beyond the reaches of known space. The planet Arrakis–now called Rakis–has reverted to its desert climate, and its great sandworms are dying.
Now the Lost Ones are returning home in pursuit of power. And as these factions vie for control over the remnants of the Empire, a girl named Sheeana rises to prominence in the wastelands of Rakis, sending religious fervor throughout the galaxy. For she possesses the abilities of the Fremen sandriders–fulfilling a prophecy foretold by the late God Emperor…
Frank Herbert, 1985
The desert planet Arrakis, called Dune, has been destroyed. The remnants of the Old Empire have been consumed by the violent matriarchal cult known as the Honored Matres. Only one faction remains a viable threat to their total conquest–the Bene Gesserit, heirs to Dune’s power.
Under the leadership of Mother Superior Darwi Odrade, the Bene Gesserit have colonized a green world on the planet Chapterhouse and are turning it into a desert, mile by scorched mile. And once they’ve mastered breeding sandworms, the Sisterhood will control the production of the greatest commodity in the known galaxy–the spice melange. But their true weapon remains a man who has lived countless lifetimes–a man who served under the God Emperor Paul Muad’Dib…