Dune (novel)

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Template:DuneSeries Dune is a 1965 science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert. A winner of the Hugo Award and Nebula Award for outstanding science fiction, Dune is popularly considered one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, and is frequently cited as the best-selling science fiction novel in history[1] (http://pnnonline.org/article.php?sid=4302). Dune spawned five sequels written by Herbert, and inspired a film adaptation by David Lynch, a mini-series made by the United States Sci Fi Channel, computer games, and a series of prequels co-written by Brian Herbert, the author's son, and Kevin J. Anderson.

Set far in the future amidst a sprawling feudal galactic empire where planetary fiefdoms are controlled by noble Houses which owe allegiance to the Imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and scion of House Atreides, as he and his family relocate to the planet Arrakis, the universe's only source of the priceless spice melange. In an action-packed story that explores the complex interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, the fate of Paul, his family, his new planet and its native inhabitants, as well as the Padishah Emperor, the powerful Spacing Guild, and the secretive female order of the Bene Gesserit, are all drawn together into a confrontation that will change the course of humanity.

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Original Publication and Dedication

The novel was originally serialised as two shorter works, Dune World and The Prophet of Dune, in Analog, 1963-1965. Herbert's dedication was

"To the people whose labors go beyond ideas into the realm of 'real materials'- to the dry-land ecologists, wherever they may be, in whatever time the work, this effort at prediction is dedicated in humility and admiration."


The consequences of the actions of superheroes, and humanity's responses, form an overarching theme in the Dune series. In an interview with Frank Herbert published in Omni Magazine in July 1980, the author said:

"Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero... Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster." [2] (http://www.dunenovels.com/news/genesis.html)


"I had this theory that superheroes were disastrous for humans, that even if you postulated an infallible hero, the things this hero set in motion fell eventually into the hands of fallible mortals. What better way to destroy a civilization, society or a race than to set people into the wild oscillations which follow their turning over their critical judgment and decision-making faculties to a superhero?"

The emphasis on ecological and religious ideas and the use of many cultural themes made the novel a provocative departure from previous science fiction.

Political themes in the Dune series include human beings' susceptibility to mass manipulation by political propaganda, religious dogma (e.g., The Missionaria Protectiva), and sexual temptation, and the importance of self-awareness and self-mastery in resisting these types of control, as well as the study of power and control.

From a historical perspective, many have noted similarities between the narrative events of Dune, in which a foreign-born native son of an old colonial order unites disparate and warring tribes of religious desert nomads to win freedom from a decaying Imperial power, and the Arab Revolt of early 20th century Middle Eastern history, in which a British liaison officer T.E. Lawrence mobilized Arab fighters to break the power of the Ottoman Turks in the Arabian peninsula. While there are many striking parallels, one of the most trivial and bizarre may be that in the film adaptations Dune (1984) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), both characters representing the old Imperial order (Emperor Shaddam IV and the Turkish Commander, respectively), are played by actor Jose Ferrer. In the aforementioned interview with OMNI Frank Herbert said that CHOAM was OPEC, equating the precious "spice melange" to oil. Parallels can also be drawn back to the spice trade of colonial days.

The novel's uses and misuses of language and linguistics also pervade Dune and the subsequent novels. (See: Language and Linguistics in Frank Herbert's Dune)


The main conflict driving the narrative events of Dune is a political struggle among three noble houses, the Imperial House Corrino, and the lesser Great Houses Atreides and Harkonnen.

The Corrino Emperor Shaddam IV, has come to see the Atreides as a threat to his throne, due to Duke Leto Atreides' charisma and popularity among the noble houses of the Imperium represented in the Landsraad assembly; and because the Duke and his talented lieutenants Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck and Mentat-assassin Thufir Hawat have successfully trained a fighting force equal in ability to the dreaded Imperial Sardaukar, although considerably smaller in number.

The Emperor decides that House Atreides must be destroyed, but he cannot risk uniting the various Houses against him by an overt attack on any single House. Instead, Shaddam uses a centuries-old feud between House Atreides and House Harkonnen as cover for his assault, enlisting the brilliant and power-hungry Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in a chance to eliminate his most hated rivals.

Supplanting the Harkonnens, the Atreides are granted stewardship of the forbidding desert planet Arrakis, also known as "Dune," the only source of the nearly priceless spice melange that increases life expectancy threefold. The Spice is also crucial to the functioning of the powerful Spacing Guild, which maintains a monopoly on interstellar travel, and the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, a secretive all-female order of deadly fighters and dangerous intellects, that has been conducting a centuries-long breeding program intended to produce a male human, the Kwisatz Haderach, who will have the abilities of prescience and access to all his ancestral memories. Complicating the political intrigue is the fact that both Paul Atreides, the Duke's son, and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, the Baron's heir, are essential parts of the Bene Gesserit's breeding program - the Bene Gesserit had planned to marry an Atreides daughter to a Harkonnen son to unite the bloodlines but were prevented in this by Lady Jessica Atreides, who defied the Sisterhood and conceived a son instead of a daughter.

The change in control of Arrakis creates another pretext for conflict between the Harkonnens and Atreides and removes Duke Leto from his power base on the home world of Caladan. While they anticipate a trap, the Atreides are unable to withstand a devastating Harkonnen attack, supported by Imperial Sardaukar dressed as Harkonnen troops and aided by a traitor within House Atreides itself. Duke Leto is assassinated, but Paul and Jessica escape into the deep desert. With Jessica's Bene Gesserit abilities and Paul's developing skills, they join a band of native Fremen, ferocious fighters who worship and ride the giant sandworms that dominate the desert planet. Paul emerges as the Kwisatz Haderach, and Jessica's knowledge of the secret religious myths of the Fremen planted by the Bene Gesserit Missionaria Protectiva enable Paul to become Muad'Dib, a religious and political leader (Mahdi) who unites millions of the Fremen together into an unstoppable military force.

Paul seizes control of Arrakis and the spice, avenging his family in a personal confrontation with Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen before the Imperial throne, forcing Shaddam to abdicate and making Paul the first Emperor in the dynasty of House Atreides.

The setting of Dune

main article: Dune universe

At the time of the novel, advanced computers have long been forbidden due to the Butlerian Jihad, which states "Thou shalt not make a machine in the image of Man's mind"; as a replacement human skills have been developed to an astonishing degree:

  • Mentats through intensive training learn to enter a heightened mental state in which they can perform complex logical computations. Most of the best Mentats, and all of the popular "twisted Mentats", are trained/grown by the Bene Tleilax, although Paul Atreides is not, having been trained by the Master of Assassins, Thufir Hawat.
  • The Spacing Guild holds a monopoly on interstellar transport. Its navigators use the spice/drug melange to gain limited prescient abilities, enabling them to guide Guild Heighliners safely to their destination by using a form of Hyperdrive, allowing faster-than-light travel.
  • The Bene Gesserit is a secret female society, often referred to as witches, with almost inhuman powers developed through control of gene lines and many years of physical and mental conditioning called prana-bindu training.

Other power groups, such as CHOAM, the Richesians, the Ixians and the Bene Tleilax are either not significantly involved in the events of Dune, or have been superseded at the time of the book.

When a Bene Gesserit acolyte becomes a full Reverend Mother, she gains her ancestral memories — the complete memories of all of her female ancestors. She cannot recall the memories of her male ancestors, and is terrified by the psychic space within her that the masculine memories inhabit.

The Bene Gesserit are conducting a breeding program to develop a superhuman male who can recall both his male and female ancestral memories, as well as the ability to see (and thus control) the future. They refer to him as the Kwisatz Haderach. This recall is due to an ordeal known as Spice Agony and involves overdosing on melange, which men have hitherto failed to survive.

Against this background, Dune chronicles the conflict between the aristocratic House Atreides and its enemy the House Harkonnen, behind whom lurks Shaddam IV, leader of House Corrino and Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe.

While the other noble houses including House Atreides and House Harkonnen do not individually approach the power of the Emperor and are in competition for fiefdoms, financial and political power, and Imperial favor, they are collectively represented in an assembly known as the Landsraad, which provides a check and balance against the power of House Corrino and the Emperor.

On the fringes of the Galaxy are the shape-shifting Tleilaxu and Ix, a planet whose history is lost in the mists of time and whose society is dominated by technology.

The Fremen are the native population of the planet Arrakis. They are a hardy people, used to the hardship and deprivation of their desert-planet. They wear a special suit to conserve body moisture and prevent leakage, called a stillsuit. Their eyes are totally blue due to their consumption of the spice melange. They await their Messiah because of a legend planted intentionally across the Universe by the Missionaria Protectiva, a division of the Bene Gesserit dedicated to religious manipulation. The Messiah legend is intended to ease the path of the Kwisatz Haderach when they bring him into being.

The Harkonnens are ordered by the Emperor to cede stewardship of the planet Arrakis (known generally as Dune) to the Atreides. The planet Arrakis is extremely arid and inhabited by giant, menacing worms which live under the sand (the Fremen call them Shai-Hulud). The Fremen, adapted to this harsh climate, are obsessed with water and consider the worms holy. Dune is the sole source of melange, also known as "the spice" that gives limited prescience and prolongs the user's lifespan; with it the Guild Navigators see a path through foldspace, and the Bene Gesserit can enhance their abilities. The spice is the most valuable commodity in the universe and it is found only on Dune. Thus, the planet is the political fulcrum of the Universe.

Detailed Synopsis

The central figure of the book is Paul Atreides, son and heir presumptive to Duke Leto Atreides, head of the House Atreides, and Leto's concubine, Jessica, a Bene Gesserit lady. The Bene Gesserit perform many functions in the Empire, as Truthsayers (human lie detectors), negotiators, advisors, and teachers, but all these functions serve one deeper purpose: they are selectively breeding humans trying to improve humanity. The goal of their breeding program is the Kwisatz Haderach, a human being who will be aware of both the female and male ancestral memories, and have the prescient abilities of the Guild's navigators. The Bene Gesserit are close, they believe, to the fruition of their plan, and Paul Atreides is at the heart of it. Jessica, his mother, disobeyed Bene Gesserit orders out of love for Leto Atreides, and gave birth to a boy, Paul. Her express orders had been to produce a girl, who the Bene Gesserit would have mated with a Harkonnen, and they hoped from this union they would produce the Kwisatz Haderach. What this means is that Paul Atreides has resources one would not expect, and possibilities that were unforeseen by everyone.

The Harkonnen attack is more diabolical, and more powerful than the Atreides imagined. The Harkonnens have managed to gain a spy in the Atreides inner household, and in doing so they achieve something unique in Imperium history: they have broken the 'imperial conditioning' of a Suk doctor, which is believed to make a person incorruptible. The Harkonnens bent the Atreides doctor - Yueh - to their will by offering the release of Yueh's wife from the suffering of cruel Harkonnen captivity.

When the Harkonnens attack, Yueh lowers the defensive house shields and uses sedative drugs to disable Leto, Paul, and Jessica, leaving the Atreides leaderless and disorganized under the Harkonnen and Sardaukar military onslaught. The Atreides army is crushed, with only a few remnants managing to escape.

Paul and Jessica are sent out into the desert to die. Because of the use of truthsayers in the Empire, the Baron Harkonnen needs to be able to say truthfully that he was not (directly) responsible for their deaths. However, this plan misfires and Paul and Jessica manage to kill their captors and escape into the desert, leaving the Harkonnens to believe that they died in a huge desert storm,called a coriolis storm.

Meanwhile, Yueh, realizing that it is likely that the Harkonnens have been playing him for a dupe, and that his wife is probably dead already, plants a poison gas capsule, disguised as a tooth, in Leto's mouth, and informs Leto about it. When Yueh hands over Leto, Baron Harkonnen lets Yueh join his wife...in death. Leto, still paralyzed, but conscious, attempts to kill the Baron by breaking the gas capsule, but misjudges his moment, and is only successful in killing the Baron's advisor and mentat, Piter de Vries.

Book One ends in the deep desert. Under the pressure of his extreme circumstances, and the increased doses of Spice that Paul had been ingesting simply living on Arrakis, some of his powers come into fruition, and his ability to see possible futures explodes into awareness. He sees many things, a way out of his situation, and the restoration of the Atreides, if only he can make contact with the Fremen...and survive.

After a dangerous crossing of the desert, Paul and Jessica manage to meet up with a troop of Fremen. Paul and Jessica prove their worth by disarming Fremen in unarmed combat, aided by Bene Gesserit prana-bindu training - the weirding way - and the Fremen leader Stilgar gladly accepts them into his troop because he would like to add that skill to the Fremen people. Paul also meets a young woman, Chani, daughter of Liet-Kynes, who he has long seen in his dreams. During this scuffle Paul disarms a proud Fremen, who takes offence at this 'presumptuous' youth, and challenges Paul to a fight to the death. Superficially, this contest between a grown man and an untried fifteen year old boy would seem grossly unfair. But Paul had been trained by masters of the sword, and he triumphs easily, making his name in the tribe, and also succeeding to the position of head of the household of the killed man. At the same time, Paul and Jessica are introduced to the deadly harshness of the Fremen lifestyle, as the Fremen ritually and literally render the dead man down to his water because it is so precious to them. Paul is named 'Usul' by Stilgar as his private name within the troop, and names himself Paul Muad'dib as his public Fremen name.

When they return to the troop's hidden cave dwelling, known as a sietch, they discover the Fremen Reverend Mother is near death, and with the fortuitous arrival of Jessica, a Bene Gesserit lady, they make Jessica their Sayaddina. Jessica, not realizing the consequences of what the Fremen are about to do, accepts to cement her place in the tribe. Halfway through the process she realizes she has made a mistake, that she is involved in a similar process to how the Bene Gesserit make their own Reverend Mothers who can see genetic memories, and realizes that the baby in her womb, fathered by Leto before his death, will also go through the process. This has truly unfortunate consequences, because it is a Bene Gesserit teaching that the baby will not have the strength to withstand her ancestors and sooner or later their consciousness will be overwhelmed by an ancestor - creating an 'abomination'.

Years pass. Paul Muad'dib learns to be a Fremen, and becomes something of a religious leader among the Fremen. Chani becomes his lover (but not his wife, as will become significant later) and bears him a son. He and his mother train the Fremen of Sietch Tabr, and other Fremen who seek out Paul in his religious guise, in the weirding way, the Bene Gesserit's prana-bindu fighting techniques. Under his leadership his 'Fedaykin' experience victory after victory. His prestige and aura grow daily.

However, in order to be truly accepted by the Fremen he must become a sandrider. The Fremen have a great secret, they have learned to control the Giant Worms, through the use of 'maker hooks' they have learned to climb aboard the worms, and then take control of their course, which enables them to quickly move around the desert. Obviously this is not the safest of tasks, but Paul attempts it and succeeds; he is a sandrider at last.

The same day smugglers seek Spice too deep in the desert and the Fremen of Sietch Tabr spring a trap. In the middle of the battle Paul recognises his weapons teacher Gurney Halleck, and calls on him to surrender, and surrender his men. Gurney is overjoyed and overwhelmed in equal measure. He surrenders his men, and joins Paul's service. Among Gurney's men, however, are some Imperial spies who attempt to kill Muad'dib. They are unsuccessful, and they are captured by the Fedaykin. Paul gives secret orders for the spies to be allowed to escape, so they reveal that Paul Atreides still lives on Arrakis. Taking advantage of recruiting Gurney Halleck, Paul uses the moment to solve his leadership problem. Since he has become a wormrider many of his followers have expected Muad'dib to challenge Stilgar, his greatest friend among the Fremen, in order to take control of Sietch Tabr. But Paul breaks tradition and in doing so forces Stilgar to do the same, managing to sidestep this issue by proclaiming himself the ruling Duke of Arrakis, and thus taking power without killing his friend.

They return to Sietch Tabr. Gurney is shocked to discover Jessica is still alive, because he believes she was the one that betrayed the Atreides and that Paul does not know. Gurney is about to kill her, when Paul walks in, and manages to stop him, and explains that it was Yueh who was actually the betrayer. Gurney is almost broken by his almost fatal and tragic error, but Jessica forgives him and he is bound even further into Atreides and Jessica's service.

Paul's power among the Fremen grows, but he is still frustrated. He is not all he could be, he cannot control his journeys into the future, and much of it is still blank to him. So he takes a truly risky step and takes the spice essence, and so attempts to perform the male equivalent of the Reverend Mother ceremony. Previously to this no man has survived this experience, and it seems he fails also, because he sinks into a coma.

Paul neglects to tell anyone what he is doing, and so many people think he is dead, though others, primarily the Fedaykin, believe he is in a religious trance. His mother, Jessica, does all she can to wake him but fails, so out of desperation she calls Chani from the deep desert to help. Chani, through her more personal knowledge of Pauls dreams and desires, realises what a mad thing Paul has done, and uses spice essence converted by Jessica using her powers as a Reverend Mother, to bring him out of his trance. For Paul no time has passed, and he glories in his new memories, and powers. He declares that it is now the time to destroy the Harkonnen.

Paul has a great plan. First he steps up Fremen attacks on the Harkonnens and manages to almost entirely stop the flow of the spice from Arrakis. This forces the Emperor to act, and he comes to Arrakis with all his Sardaukar, and also levies of all the other noble houses, to annihilate the Fremen if necessary in order to get the spice flowing again.

By now the Emperor is aware of who Muad'dib is. In advance of his arrival, he sends a large Sardaukar force into the deep desert for information. Attacking a sietch, they manage to kill Paul's son, and capture Alia - Paul's sister - but are driven off by Fremen children, old people and women. After the Emperor himself has landed, Paul launches the final attack. Using the House Atriedes' family atomics (nuclear weapons) that his men managed to retrieve after the Harkonnen attack, he blows a hole in the Shield Wall (a mountain/rock wall) that protects the capital of Dune, Arrakeen, from the surrounding desert and its fierce storms. Under cover of a huge desert storm the Fremen then attack, using giant worms to ride in on, from the desert and through the hole in the Shield Wall. The great static force of the sandstorm then shorts out all of the Sarduakar's defensive shields. The Sardaukar are unable to withstand the full force of the Fremen, caught as they are in total surprise, and the Emperor is forced to surrender. The combined forces of the Landsraad still loom in orbit around the planet, but Paul threatens with destroying the Spice if any of them try to land, and they back off. In the surprise of Muad'dib's attack, Alia manages to escape, and in the process kills Baron Harkonnen.

Realizing that Muad'dib is not some mad Fremen religious leader changes the situation dramatically for the Emperor. Feyd-Rautha, the Baron's nephew, and an acclaimed gladiator, challenges Paul to single combat claiming rights of kanly as declared by Paul's father Leto. Paul agrees even knowing that it is possible he will die, but after a difficult fight he eventually triumphs.

Paul refuses to take any more nonsense. He forces the Emperor from the throne by the simple expedience of taking power from the real rulers of the Empire - the Spacing Guild - who control space travel. He again threatens to destroy the spice if they do not ship all the troops home. The Spacing Guild have no choice - their limited powers of prophecy show Paul is capable of it - and they send everyone home. The Emperor abdicates and retires to Salusa Secundus, Paul marries (in name only) the Emperor's eldest daughter, Irulan, and assumes control of the Empire.

He promises the Fremen that he will turn Arrakis into a garden planet, and all seems well in the universe of Paul Atreides.

List of characters

The characters are listed by primary allegiances. In some cases these allegiances change or reveal themselves to be different in the course of the novels.

House Atreides

House Harkonnen

House Corrino

  • Shaddam IV, the Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe
  • Irulan the Emperor's eldest daughter and heir. Also a historian.
  • Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Bene Gesserit schemer, the Emperor's Truthsayer.
  • Count Hasimir Fenring, an eunuch and the Emperor's closest friend and advisor (not a Corrino per se)



See Also

External links


Fan sites

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