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Dune (novel)

Dune is a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. It and the five sequels are considered by many fans of the genre to be the best science fiction epic ever written. It is certainly one of the most popular.

In the Dune universe, advanced computers are forbidden due to the Butlerian Jihad against thinking machines, and so as a replacement human skills have been developed to an astonishing degree:

  • Mentats use intensive training to allow themselves to enter a heightened mental state in which they could perform computer-like computations.
  • The Spacing Guild use the "spice" drug to enhance their prescient abilities and see a path through folded space, allowing instantaneous travel across the universe.
  • The Bene Gesserit is a secretive group of female witches with almost inhuman powers developed through many years of physical and mental conditioning.

When a Bene Gesserit acolyte progresses to be 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 fears the psychic space within her that they inhabit. The Bene Gesserit are conducting a breeding program to develop a superhuman male who will recall both his male memories and his female memories, as well as the ability to see (and thus control) the future. They call him the Kwisatz Haderach.

Against this background, Dune chronicles the conflict between the aristocratic House Atreides and House Harkonnen, behind whom lurks the power of the Emperor and House Corrino, and the Spacing Guild which has a monopoly on interstellar transport.

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

The Fremen are the indigenous population of the planet Arrakis. They are a hardy people, used to the hardship and deprivation of their desert-planet. They await their Messiah because of a legend planted intentionally across the Universe by the Bene Gesserit. The Messiah legend is intended to ease the path of the Kwisatz Haderach when they bring him into being. The division of the Bene Gesserit which is dedicated to religious manipulation is the Missionaria Protectiva.

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, adapted to this harsh climate, are obsessed with water and consider the worms holy.

Dune is the sole source of melange, a "spice" that gives 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.

In a Harkonnen attack, the ducal heir Paul Atreides loses his father Duke Leto Atreides. He escapes with his pregnant mother, the Lady Jessica. After proving his worth, he is accepted by the indigenous Fremen as their messiah and it is confirmed that he is the Kwisatz Haderach. In accepting the mantle of godhood, Paul launches the Atreides on a course that spans 10,000 years through the next five books.

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

Dune was awarded the Nebula award and tied for the Hugo award.

The success of Dune has ensured several sequels. The overall theme for the dune series is the focus on the actions and consequences of superheros.

Frank Herbert says:

"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?"

This explains the tone for the next three novels to follow: Dune Messiah, Children of Dune and God Emperor Dune.

The series:

There is also a prequel trilogy to Dune, known as the Prelude to Dune. It was written by Brian Herbert[?] (son of Frank) and Kevin J. Anderson and based in part on Frank Herbert's notes, found after his death.

A second prequel trilogy called the Legends of Dune is being developed by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. The release dates and titles come from the official website (http://www.dunenovels.com).

See the list of Characters from the novel.


Other uses:
Dune (film) - inspired by Dune
Dune (games) - games inspired by Dune
Dune (computer game) – computer game inspired by Dune

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