And that day dawned when Arrakis lay at the hub of the universe with the wheel poised to spin.
-from “Arrakis Awakening” by the Princess Irulan
Without argument the original Dune novel is the Magnum Opus of Frank Herbert’s literary work. Yet, there is a larger series of books written set in the Dune universe. Below is a full list of all the novels and companions in the Dune series – those from the original author as well as his son Brian Herbert and long-time co-author Kevin J. Anderson.
The Original Series
Frank Herbert wrote six Dune novels, published from 1965 to 1985. They are listed below.
- Dune (1965)
- Dune Messiah (1969)
- Children of Dune (1976)
- God-Emperor of Dune (1981)
- Heretics of Dune (1984)
- Chapterhouse: Dune (1985)
Sadly, after the brilliant Chapterhouse: Dune author Frank Herbert died. This left the series unfinished as the seventh was meant to cap the series. The sixth novel ended on a cliffhanger as it left reader to ponder who the mysterious enemy was that intended to wipe out humanities’ universe. Though the war between the Bene Gesserit and the Honored Matres was concluded in the sixth novel its fallout was not.
For a long time it had been suggested that the author was working on the story before he died, but that any draft or notes had been lost. It was in 1999 that they were found. Sadly the notes were only too brief. While Dune 7 was eventually adapted by his son Brian Herbert and co-author Kevin J. Anderson fans speculate if it bares any resemblance to the way Frank Herbert intended it.
Expanded Dune book series
The first novel after the release of Chapterhouse: Dune was one by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. In fact, together they would end up writing no less than 13 novels. This includes three trilogies, and two duologies. For a while they were referred to as the prequels and eliciting comparisons to the Star Wars Prequels in sometimes equally unfavorable fashion. Nonetheless as a number of novels are also set after the original Dune timeline they should be collectively called something else. I use the term ‘Expanded Dune book Series’.
Prelude to Dune
The first addition to the franchise was the Prelude to Dune trilogy. It details events in the decades leading up to the Dune novel and works largely of notes left by the original author. The trilogy depicts the rising tension between the great houses and factions such as the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild. The trilogy is notable for a large section is set on Kaitain, the planet on which the Padishah Emperors of House Corrino rule. The court intrigue that is hinted at in the original Dune novel makes up a substantial part of this series. I think it is the best part. The trilogy does not expressly have thematic views. Yet, the overarching corruption that is slowly eroding the Corrino Empire is notable. Three novels form part of the series: Dune: House Atreides (1999), Dune: House Harkonnen (2000) and Dune: House Corrino.
The Butlerian Jihad
The second trilogy details the events before the creation of the Empire over ten thousand years ago before the events of Dune. This trilogy describes how the war between humanity and the thinking machines lead by Omnius escalates. The story introduces familiar names such as Atreides and Harkonnen into the Dune Universe. As the trilogy progresses the war turns ever more vicious until for humanity it turns into a Jihad and it begins to get a life of its own. Again there are three novels in this sub-series: Dune: The Butlerian Jihad (2002), Dune: The Machine Crusade (2003) and Dune: The Battle of Corrin (2004).
I think thematically this trilogy is the weakest. The threat to humanity is well explored but there is little done with the philosophical implications. I think fans found this trilogy mostly underwhelming. For what was supposed to be the origin story of many Great Houses and history defining events feels like fan fiction. That said, minor characters in this trilogy are fun to read about – the origins of the Fremen warriors is also depicted. It should be noticed by now the regularity with which both authors turned out Dune novels. For fans, the lack of thematic depth and contradiction with the original series made it felt like the Dune franchise had become a commodity.
As mentioned Dune 7 was never written – by the original author. Instead the notes were adapted into two novels: Hunters of Dune (2006) and Sandworms of Dune (2007). Together they are known as the Sequels. I remember being excited at the news that original material was used to guide these novels along. Sadly, I think that was overstating it. While the story is fun it suffers from exactly the same ailments as all the other expanded universe novels. It lacks any deeper meaning. There is no exposition on philosophy, religion or science. These stories depict action instead of character development. For those not familiar with the original novels they are easy to get into, but fans will be left wondering what Dune 7 will have been like had Frank Herbert lived to write it.
Heroes of Dune
The next two novels in the series are Paul of Dune (2008) and Winds of Dune (2009). They are the first by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson set after the events of the original Dune novel and before Dune Messiah. I suspect the decision to focus on this time period was to re-introduce familiar characters for the benefit of fans of the original novels. That said, because Brian and Kevin did not want to ruin continuity they also have to retcon many events. In the last novel Paul Atreides actually dies, only to be saved by drinking the water of life a second time while he receives a blood transfusion. The inclusion of characters such as Count Fenring is a welcome one but the story also feels superfluous.
Two more novels were planned in this series. Though they may also have formed a duology of their own. The first was meant to be called The Throne of Dune but has previously been referred to as Irulan of Dune. The latter is Leto of Dune but also called The Golden Path of Dune. Supposedly they were cancelled to allow the authors to focus on the Great School trilogy. With the upcoming Denis Villeneuve film in production I think it likely the authors will once again consider these novels. Though I advice them to that the novels must standalone from the rest, be understandable even for a reader unfamiliar to Dune yet it should explore deeper themes.
Great Schools of Dune
The final Dune book series by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are the three known together as Great Schools of Dune. These are set in the years after the Butlerian Jihad when The Empire slowly solidifies into the entity that would exist for over 10 thousand years. The evolution of the Sisterhood of Rossak into the Bene Gesserit is noteworthy as well as its relation to the emerging court intrigue of the Empire. Yet, the trilogy is also noteworthy for retconning and improbabilities. One such issue is the character Valya who rises to become the Reverent Mother Superior of the Bene Gesserit. With her Harkonnen lineage she becomes obsessed with revenge on the Atreides. Such as deviation of how the sisterhood operates in the original novel irked many fans.
More in the Dune book series
The list of novels is by no means the complete list of Dune book series. There are several companion works avid readers can use to get a better understanding of Dune and its authors.
The Dune Encyclopedia
Written by Willis E. McNelly and released in 1984. The encyclopedia is a selection of essays that detail background of characters and places. Though McNelly was a close friend of Frank Herbert the work is not considered canon. This is confirmed by Herbert himself in the foreword. This was later confirmed by his son Brian and co-author Kevin J. Anderson when they wrote the first of the expanded Dune universe novels.
McNelly’s work is by no means trivial. It contains descriptions of the major languages used by the characters such as Fremen and Galach as well as the workings of technology and industry. In fact, considering how often the expanded series contradicts Frank Herbert’s original work I feel disdain at how they treat this encyclopedia. It would have been a better starting point if they had updated and corrected McNelly’s work before committing to writing 13 novels.
As it is considered non-canon The Dune Encyclopedia is currently out of print.
The Road to Dune
In 2005, between the Legends of Dune and two Sequel novels Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson released a collection of work together known as The Road To Dune. This companion book contains letters from publishers Frank Herbert received as to ‘improve’ his work. Back in the 60’s trade back novels were often as small as 20000 words. As a spoof there is a short novel written by the authors called “Spice Planet” which is written as though Frank would have followed the advice of publishers. Furthermore there also several short stories as well as missing chapters from Dune and Dune Messiah. The Road To Dune is an interesting reference work that shows just how difficult getting Dune published was. However, I think it is only worthwhile for die-hard Dune fans.
Dreamer of Dune
This is the official biography of author Frank Herbert as written by his son Brian. It was released in 2003 and was a finalist of the 2004 Hugo Award for Best Related Work.
Dune Graphic Novel
The original Dune is set to receive an adaptation in the form of a graphic novel. It will be released in 3 parts with the first edition set for October of 2020. For a full description of the graphic novel read my preview. The graphic novel will feature illustrations by Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín and a cover by Bill Sienkiewicz. I hope the graphic novel will do justice to the original and increase readership of the series.
But that is not all, besides the graphic novel a comic book adaptation of the novel Dune: House Atreides is also in the works. It is being produced by Boom! Studios as a twelve issues limited series set for the fall of 2020. Efforts are being coordinated with Abrams ComicArts who are working on the graphic novel. As such the series based on the novels written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson is being used as an introduction to the Dune universe. Considering it covers events immediately preceding the original novel it is no doubt intended to familiarize readers. While I think Dune: House Atreides is the best novel of the best trilogy in the expanded universe it is an odd choice for an adaptation. I know I will read it, and review it, but will anyone other than diehard Dune fans? This adaptation will have lots of appeal. The timeline it covers is set with murder, betrayal, sex and other intrigue. The court of Emperor Shaddam’s father Elrood IX is described as a watershed moment.
With that, the list of the Dune book series is complete. Unless, of course you add non-canon companion books.