rank Herbert’s Dune is mythic, mystical, and mind-blowing. In 1965, it erupted onto the scene, forever altering the science fiction landscape. Spanning an epic 20,000 years across six novels, Dune is a mythos-making saga, weaving a tapestry of breathtaking lore and earning its place as the top-selling sci-fi novel of all time. This wasn't mere storytelling. It was an epic journey into a strange and intricately crafted universe that captured the Hugo and Nebula Awards and established a cornerstone of the genre.

“Dune is to science fiction what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy.”  ~The Library Journal

On the surface, Dune is a classic fantasy story set in space.  It begins with a young aristocrat catapulted from his privileged home into a harsh land where he must brave deadly enemies, conquer dragons (sandworms), and earn the trust of a fierce indigenous people. Warriors, witches, and noble houses battle for power, yet despite all these familiar tropes, it is utterly original.  

Dune is weird and will take you to places you never imagined. It has interstellar navigators high on spice, holy women high on spice, and desert Fremen warriors high on spice. Deeper into the saga, it even introduces a hybrid human sandworm born from spice. Spice melange is the most valuable substance in the galaxy. It fuels prescience, power, and, most importantly, the ability to navigate interstellar space. And where does spice come from?  One place only: Shai-Hulud, the desert sandworms that live on the planet of Arrakis, also known as Dune.

He who controls the spice controls the universe, but first, he must conquer Dune.  

Dune is set millennia from now in our galaxy. It has bibles and histories, journals and epithets, some of which reference history on Earth. But the galaxy has changed, and a new messiah is about to be born. His name is Paul Atreides. Some call him Maud’Dib. His legacy will be long and bloody, leaving a new universe shivering in his wake.

This guide will discuss the novels, TV shows, and films and touch upon the Dune Expanded Universe. But let’s start at the beginning. Who dreamed up the fantastical world of Dune?

Frank Herbert: Dreamer of Psychedelic Sandworms

Frank Herbert was born in 1920 in Tacoma, Washington, USA, and worked as a writer for most of his adult life.  His jobs included reporter, World War II Navy photographer, short story writer, and novelist.  But until Dune’s success, he didn’t exactly prosper.  Fortunately, his wife Beverly had a steady job that helped support the family and allowed Herbert to focus on his writing. Not only was she his beloved partner, but she was also his reader and trusted collaborator for 37 years!  

Portrait of Frank Herbert
Image Credit: dunenovels.com

Herbert was a profound thinker, fascinated by religion, ecology, power, consciousness, language, and the potential for human evolution.  In other words, this man was deep!  A fiercely independent thinker, he dared to forge his own path, embracing strange, mind-blowing narratives even if they weren’t mainstream or predictably profitable.

In 1963, “Dune World” was serialized in the science fiction magazine Analog, which published the first third of Dune, the only part yet written. Eventually, Herbert completed the novel we have today, but the path to publication was like a trek through the sands of Arrakis. Twenty-three rejections would roll in before Sterling Lanier, an editor at Chilton Books (publisher of auto repair manuals) and a hard-core Tolkien fan, requested to see the manuscript. Lanier had fallen in love with “Dune World” in Analog magazine and convinced Chilton Books to buy it. He changed the name to Dune, and it was published as a beautiful hardback. The rest is history!

Cover of Analog Magazine in which Dune World First Appeared
Image Credit: Analog Magazine

Sadly, Herbert passed away in 1986 before concluding his saga. But his son, Brian Herbert, along with Kevin J. Anderson, picked up where he left off.  They expanded the Dune Universe with over a dozen more novels and completed the original saga based on Frank Herbert’s outline for the seventh book.

You don’t need prescience to sense there’s more to come. Dune has spawned TV shows, movies, comics, games, and endless discussions among passionate fans. It continues expanding our minds, bending time, and fueling our imaginations. But what is it all about? 

Strap in, open your mind, and brace for intrigue, sandworms, and cosmic stakes in this epic sci-fi journey!

The Dune Universe

Dune is a story about the struggle for power in a galaxy with interstellar travel millennia from now. Artificial Intelligence and computer technology have been banned after a violent uprising known as the Butlerian Jihad. Humans called mentats and spice-fueled navigators do what machines once did: they compute and navigate. There are also the mysteriously powerful women of the Bene Gesserit, a religious faction with fighting skills and psychic powers to rival (or inspire) the Jedi. But despite these amazing abilities, none of these groups are in charge. That role belongs to the Galactic Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV of House Corrino.

Poster from the 2021 film Dune.
Image Credit: Legendary Pictures

There is a hierarchy in the Dune Universe, with the Padishah Emperor on top and the noble Houses beneath him. The Atreides — young Paul’s family — have become so popular for actually being honorable (apparently a rare trait amongst aristocrats) that the Emperor deems them a threat and orders House Atreides to Arrakis.  

House Harkonnen have governed Arrakis for years, tyrannizing the Fremen, taking their spice, and growing obscenely wealthy. But then the Emperor orders the Harkonnens to pull out and make way for House Atreides.  

The House that controls Arrakis amasses great wealth, so this is a boon for House Atreides,  right? 

There is treachery afoot!  Arrakis is dangerous for House Atreides, and everyone knows it. This noble house hails from Caladan, a planet lush with water and life. Arrakis is a brutal place where death comes hard and fast. It has a vicious desert, violent locals, and giant sandworms that swallow entire ships!  And so the Atreides prepare. 

House Atreides has loyal, elite warriors who protect Duke Leto, head of the House, train Paul to fight, and are willing to die for his family — men like Duncan Idaho and Gurney Halleck. There’s also Dr. Yueh and the mentat Thufir Hawat, all of whom play crucial roles in our story.  

Meanwhile, the Bene Gesserit have a secret breeding program that’s been going on for millennia. Their ultimate aim is to breed the Kwisatz Haderach, a male who can bridge space and time and access the memories of his entire ancestral line. Lady Jessica, Duke Leto’s concubine and a Bene Gesserit acolyte, was ordered to bear a daughter. Instead, she intentionally had a son (Paul) and trained him in the secret ways (forbidden to boys) of her religious order. Lady Jessica is a bit of a rebel.

Despite all these factions and families, the planet Arrakis may be the main character in this saga. Arrakis shimmers with myths of messiahs and ancient prophecy. Its people are saturated with spice, which their eyes and minds reflect. Arrakis has birthed mystics, warriors, and wisened oracles. It holds not only Shai Hulud and priceless melange but something potentially more tantalizing: indigenous desert wisdom.  

The Fremen have primordial survival strategies. They don’t live on Arrakis but within it, in symbiosis. Arrakis has shaped every aspect of their lives—how they live, die, love, and even cry. It will come to shape Paul Atreides' fate as well, and with him, the future of the entire galaxy.

Ultimately, Dune is an adventure story laden with lore. The deeper you dive, the more there is to learn. And that’s exciting! This universe is vast, and we don’t want to give too much away. Part of the fun is the joy of discovery. So now that we’ve set the stage, here’s a brief breakdown of the different factions–just enough to help you understand what the heck is going on.

Factions of Dune

The Great Houses

  • House Corrino: Noble house of the Padishah Emperor and his daughter Princess Irulan.
  • House Atreides: A truly “noble” family with a tradition of honor and virtue.  Home to Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, and their son Paul Atreides.
  • House Harkonnen: Sadistic tyrants who rule Arrakis and the Fremen with a bloody fist. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and his nephew Feyd-Rautha hail from this house.

Other Factions

  • The Spacing Guild: An organization of navigators who use spice to gain limited prescience and psychically navigate through the folds of space, monopolizing interstellar travel and gaining great wealth.  
  • The Bene Gesserit: An adept sisterhood with seemingly superhuman control over mind and body. Trained in combat, they can manipulate their bodies on a cellular level and control others through their power of Voice. They have an ultimate goal: to create the Kwisatz Haderach.
  • The Fremen: The indigenous population of Arrakis. Toughened by their environment, they are fierce fighters who know the secret ways of the sandworm. They have their own prophecy of a messiah, the Lisan al-Gaib, which the Bene Gesserit may have planted.
  • The Sardaukar: Highly skilled imperial soldiers trained on Salusa Secundus, a prison planet, under brutal conditions that ensure only the strongest survive. They are fanatically loyal to the Emperor and fight with nearly suicidal intent. In other words, they’re kind of crazy.

Frank Herbert’s Original Dune Saga

Frank Herbert wrote six Dune novels that span twenty thousand years.  They’re sometimes referred to as the Dune Saga, Dune Chronicles, or Dune Canon.  

Book 1: Dune (1965):  

In a distant future, 15-year-old aristocrat Paul Atreides and his house move to the desert planet of Arrakis, home of the spice melange. When House Atreides is betrayed and attacked, Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica, escape alone into the vast desert. Paul is dosed with spice, which awakens which awakens his latent powers of prescience.  

Cover of the novel Dune by Frank Herbert
Image Credit: Ace Books

If Paul can gain the Fremen’s trust, he and his mother might have a chance to survive. But how does a rich boy from a water-laden planet earn the trust of such wild, desert people? Will Arrakis and the forking pathways of prescience devour him? Or will they catapult him toward his destiny as the prophesied messiah, transforming him into Muad'Dib?  

Dune is EPIC. Frank Herbert went all out with battles, shipwrecks, sandworms, holy women, warriors, storms that shred your skin off, and a young man with mind-shattering visions who just might change (or destroy) the galaxy.  

Book 2: Dune Messiah (1969):  

Years after the events of Dune, the story of Paul Atreides continues along with his sister, Alia, the Knife. Enormous change has come to the planet and galaxy. Paul Atreides is Emperor and struggles with the consequences and overwhelming burdens of prescience. Various factions move against him: The Space Guild, the Bene Gesserit, and the Tleilaxu (shape-shifting humans). But, a few allies remain: Paul’s sister Alia, Chani, the love of his life, and her uncle, the loyal Fremen Stilgar. 

Cover the novel Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
Image Credit: Ace Books

In Dune Messiah, a trusted friend from the past reemerges. Alia is awakening to womanhood while struggling to balance her extreme powers. And Paul struggles to chart a path forward through his visions that will create the least harm for the world while protecting the one he loves most.

This is a deep, character-driven novel with less action than its predecessor but just as much soul. Prepare to be deeply moved by the ending.

Book 3: Children of Dune (1976):  

The story of House Atreides continues in Children of Dune nine years after Paul's reign. Alia, now a young woman, is ruling regent in Paul’s stead and guides his twin children, Ghanima and Leto II. The young twins, born with prescience, sense that something is terribly wrong with Aunt Alia and fear they might be next.

Cover of the novel Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
Image Credit: Penguin Random House

Powerful people move against the Atreides family. House Corrino plots assassination. The Bene Gesserit seek to control the twins, and the Spacing Guild and Tleixaxu have their own agendas. Ultimately, everyone schemes to control the spice, and Leto II may have to make an unthinkable sacrifice to retain power. The ecology of Arrakis has been drastically transformed. The old ways are disappearing like dust,  and the sandworm might die with them.  

This book has abomination, possession, clones, shape-shifting, desert chases, and human-hybrid transformation. Old friends of the Atreides return, and Lady Jessica is back!  

Children of Dune was a resounding success. It was nominated for a Hugo and became the first science fiction hardback to hit the New York Times Bestsellers list. Herbert planned to end the saga here with this trilogy. But it was such a success that he continued writing the “second” trilogy, which was the most wildly imaginative one of all.  

Get ready! This is where the Dune saga gets really weird.

Book 4: God Emperor of Dune (1981):  

Book 4 leaps ahead several thousand years and centers around Leto II, who still lives but is hardly human. A lot has happened. Forests blanket Arrakis, and Leto, the God Emperor of the galaxy, rules with absolute dominion. The sandworms are gone, and so is the sand, save for enough to house his citadel. Having become a hybrid being, his capacities of prescience are enormous. He can remember the history of humankind. With this knowledge, he’s formulated The Golden Path to save humanity from destruction.

Cover of the novel God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert
Image Credit: Gollancz

The galaxy is at peace, but it comes at a harsh cost. Leto has strangled progress, suppressed technology, and locked down interstellar travel. As a result, rebellion ferments with all the various factions at play.

God Emperor of Dune is an introspective, character-driven novel rich with world-building. Through Leto II, Herbert explores philosophical questions about power, sacrifice, and free will.

Book 5: Heretics of Dune (1984):  

One thousand-five hundred years after Leto’s reign, Arrakis is called Rakis. Once again, it is a desert planet, and its sandworms hold fragments of Leto’s consciousness.  As a consequence of the God Emperor’s painful rule, trillions of humans fled the galaxy in the Scattering, but now some are returning hungry for power.

Cover of the novel Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert
Image Credit: Putnam

New factions appear, and old ones remain.  The Honored Matres, with dangerous sexual powers, arrive from the Scattering to viciously challenge the Bene Gesserit.  The dead return again, and from the Rakis desert, a powerful Atreides descendant arises. Her name is Sheeana, and she can ride the sandworms as prophesied by the God Emperor.   

Book 6: Chapterhouse: Dune (1985):  

Chapterhouse Dune is the final book in Frank Herbert’s original series. Emperors and noble houses have risen and fallen for millennia, but the Bene Gesserit remain. Now they have an enemy unlike any they’ve ever faced: the Honored Matres, who have violently conquered most of the galaxy. To survive, the Bene Gesserit have fled to the planet Chapterhouse and are terraforming it to bring back the sandworm.

Cover of the novel Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert
Image Credit: Ace Books

The Dune Expanded Universe

The saga continues!  Frank Herbert’s original saga is so vast that it compels diehard fans to read on. For those who want to immerse themselves more deeply in the world of Dune, especially the powerful houses and factions, Brian Herbert (Frank Herbert’s son) and Kevin J. Anderson have penned the Dune expanded universe with enough novels to keep you reading for years, including the conclusion to Frank Herbert’s original saga.  

Cover of the novel Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Image Credit: MacMillan Publishing

Chapterhouse: Dune ends on a cliffhanger, which Frank Herbert planned to conclude in the seventh novel. Unfortunately, he died before he could write it. However, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson wrote Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s outline, bringing the original saga to a conclusion.

Cover for the novel Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Image Credit: MAcMillan Publishing

Dune in Film and Television

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)  

Alejandro Jodorowsky is a controversial, avant-garde filmmaker of Chilean/French descent. His films have become cult classics partly because he pushes boundaries to the limits. He just might be a little crazy. Perhaps this is why, in the mid-70s, he embarked upon making a film adaptation of Dune when he hadn’t even read the book! Millions were spent in pre-production, and Jodorowsky assembled a wildly talented team of artists and designers. 

But, alas, after two and a half years, the film was canceled. However, all was not lost! Jodorowsky’s storyboarding and design for the film, with over 3,000 concept art drawings, was so spectacular it inspired the aesthetic of great sci-fi films like Alien and Blade Runner. Some even say it influenced the aesthetic of Star Wars.

Poster for Jodorowsky's Dune
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Let’s time jump to 2013. Filmmaker Frank Pavitch released his critically acclaimed documentary about this adventure entitled Jodorowsky’s Dune. This film is a blast. From start to finish, it’s a deliriously exciting ride with Dune art, sci-fi film history, and Jodorowsky’s enthusiastic take on what’s been called “the greatest movie never made.

Dune (1984)  

After Jodorowsky failed to make Dune, Ridley Scott began pre-production but realized it would take more work than he was willing to give and chose to make Blade Runner instead. Enter David Lynch, who finally brought Dune to the screen! Lynch is a deeply creative filmmaker known for surreal stories like Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Eraserhead. He wrote and directed Dune but admits that the novel was so densely layered that he struggled to condense it down into a film. George Lucas warned him it couldn’t be done and asked him to direct Return of the Jedi, but Lynch was set on Dune.

Image Credit: De Laurentiis Productions

1984’s Dune has a fun cast and loads of creative talent behind the scenes, yet it was released to mixed reviews and poor box office sales. Fans were dismayed by how it detoured from the book. Lynch was embarrassed by the film and frustrated that the studio didn’t allow him the final cut. He even had his name removed or replaced by a pseudonym on certain releases. And yet, perhaps due to Lynch’s weirding ways, his Dune adaptation has acquired a cult following.

Frank Herbert’s Dune TV Miniseries (2000) 

A challenge with adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune to the screen is condensing so much material into a two-and-a-half-hour movie, so director John Harrison convinced the SciFi Channel to release a miniseries instead! This 2000 series adapts Herbert’s first novel in the Dune saga and takes its time to unfold while staying true to the original story.

DVD Cover for the 2000 TV Miniseries Dune
Image Credit: Umbrella Entertainment

It consists of three episodes, each over 90 minutes long. William Hurt stars as Duke Leto Atreides and Alec Neuman as Paul Atreides. It’s considered a solid adaptation with a strong focus on the human experience. In 2000, it was the most successful show in SciFi channel history. It went on to win two Emmy awards in Outstanding Cinematography and Outstanding Visual Effects.

Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune TV Miniseries (2003)

This sequel to the 2000 miniseries consists of three approximately 90-minute episodes directed by Greg Yaitanes. It adapts Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, completing Frank Herbert’s original Dune trilogy. It was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards and won for Outstanding Special Visual Effects.

DVD Cover for 2003 Miniseries Children of Dune
Image Credit: Sci Fi Pictures

Dune: Part One (2021) 

In 2021, the movie Dune fans have been waiting for finally arrived! Director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, Sicario) ushered in a Dune renaissance by bringing his life-long vision of Dune: Part One to the screen. This Dune is EPIC. The acting and filmmaking are spectacular, and it’s true to the spirit of the novel! 

Poster for the 2021 film Dune
Image Credit: Legendary Pictures

The COVID pandemic significantly delayed its release. When HBO Max finally released it in October 2021, they sent it straight to streaming the same day it went to theaters. Villeneuve was not happy. Dune: Part One is filmmaking on an epic scale made for the big screen. Its landscapes, spaceships, and battles are stunning. Releasing it straight to streaming meant that many new to Dune experienced it for the first time in the cozy comfort of their living room — not exactly the awe-inspiring experience Villeneuve had in mind.  

Despite this, Dune: Part One was a resounding success. Not only did it bring joy to mainstream audiences, but it made hardcore fans happy, too.  The Academy Awards recognized it with ten nominations,  including Best Picture, and six wins for Best in Cinematography, Sound, Visual Effects, Production Design, Film Editing, and Original Score by Hans Zimmer.  It adapts the first half of Frank Herbert’s Dune and ends on a cliffhanger after Lady Jessica and Paul have encountered the Fremen.  

Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, and a stellar cast rounds out the film with Oscar Isaac, Jessica Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Charlotte Rampling,  Stellan Skarsgård, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Chang Chen, and Dave Bautista.  

Dune: Part Two (2024)

Dune: Part Two concludes Denis Villeneuve’s two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Paul’s story continues as he unites with Chani and the Fremen to confront the escalating war on Arrakis.This time, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) appears alongside her father, Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken), and the evil Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler), who will give you the shivers even under the hottest Arrakis sun.

Poster for the 2024 film Dune: Part Two
Image Credit: Legendary Pictures

Dune: Part Two was a massive hit with critics and catalyzed new and passionate fans while earning more at the box office than Part One. It will take you on a ride as epic as Paul’s adventure atop Shai-Hulud. Its breathtaking visuals, intense action sequences, and focus on character development create an emotionally powerful journey. Diehard Dune fans are happy, and newcomers to the epic world of Arrakis are newly inspired.

Upcoming Dune Projects

Dune Messiah  

Denis Villeneuve plans to adapt Dune Messiah, Book 2 in Frank Herbert’s Dune saga, and end his film trilogy there.

Dune: Prophecy

This Max series was initially titled Dune: The Sisterhood after Brian Herbert and Kevin J.  Anderson’s novelIt’s set 10,000 years before Frank Herbert’s Dune and will focus on Valya and Tula Harkonnen as they struggle to form the Bene Gesserit sisterhood.  

Image from the cover of the novel Dune: The Sisterhood by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
Image Credit: Tor Books


When Dune arrived on the scene in 1965, no one had read any science fiction like it.  Frank Herbert created an intricately expanding universe that inspired some of the most beloved sci-fi movies ever made.  More than half a century later, it continues to impact readers and storytellers with timeless questions about the nature of power, ecology, and human evolution.  

The world of Dune may feel vast, but it has various entry points, from novels and films to comics and games. Whatever route you choose, it’s a journey to savor and contemplate. Frank Herbert was a writer of eternal ideas, and like the spice melange, reading his work is guaranteed to deepen your mind.

Promotional image for the 2024 film Dune: Part Two
Image Credit: Legendary Pictures

Dune is weird, it’s true. When a boy rides a giant spaceworm, things are bound to get wild. But, if you long for adventure and a story that shimmers with mind-blowing pathways, go for it and dive in. As Herbert wrote, “The slow blade penetrates the shield.” It’s okay to take your time and let the world unfold. With Dune, it truly is about the journey. But prepare to strap your stillsuit on because it’s going to be an astonishing spice-fueled Shai-Hulud ride, and the Dune renaissance has only just begun!

Gea Haff was the magical age of 9-years-old when A New Hope came to theaters and forever imprinted itself on her mind. Three years later, after seeing The Empire Strikes Back she wrote George Lucas a letter asking him to please put her in his next movie, Return of the Jedi. Alas, Mr. Lucas did not concede to her demands, but Lucasfilm did write her back and send her a free subscription to Bantha Tracks! She has been a loyal devotee ever since.