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 set in the Dune Universe. Below is a full list of all the novels of Dune – those from Frank Herbert known as the Original Series and those by his son Brian Herbert co-authored with Kevin J. Anderson. The latest series is the Caladan Trilogy, see the section below of which its first entry was released in 2020 with the second Dune: The Lady of Caladan set nominally for the fall of 2021. That would mark the 21st entrant in the series not counting short stories and companion books.
The Original Series
Frank Herbert wrote six Dune novels, published from 1965 to 1985. The first novel, Dune, was serialized for print in analog between 1963 and 1964 in two parts: Dune World and Prophet of Dune. It was only afterwards that the author sought to have Dune published as a novel. After numerous rejections, but encouragement Tom Doherty (founder of Tor Books) did he succeed with Chilton Publishing, which had only been for it automotive guides. Eventually Frank Herbert would publish 6 novels as part of the Original Series. 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 and it left readers 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 eventually 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 to be.
Dune 7 eventually became Hunters of Dune (2006) and Sandworms of Dune (2007) which are mentioned below. Considering it took Brian and Kevin two novels to tie-up the storyline it becomes doubtful Frank Herbert would have succeeded with just one volume. Perhaps an eight novel would have been necessary.
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 14 novels, with two more to go. This includes three trilogies, and two duologies. For a while they were referred to as the prequels and elicited 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 Series’ to encompass all those not part of the Original Series by Frank Herbert. This includes all short fiction as well.
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 the large sections 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. Currently Dune: House Atreides is being adapted as a comic book. You can read reviews for issue #1, issue #2 and issue #3 by following the links.
The Butlerian Jihad
The second trilogy has as its story the creation of the Empire over ten thousand years ago, before the events of the original Dune novel. 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 Dune book 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 Dune Series 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.
Despite the recent drought of Dune material the upcoming film adaptation by Denis Villeneuve has sparked renewed interest in the franchise. Currently I am tracking three new writing projects. The first is the new novel series by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson entitled The Caladan Trilogy. The second is the graphic novel adaption of the original Dune novel. The third and last project is a comic book adaption of the Prelude to Dune novels starting with House Atreides. You can read more on each project below. There are also links to the articles announcing each project.
The Caladan Trilogy
The latest project to be announced is The Caladan Trilogy. Set just before the events of the original novel they will prominently feature Duke Leto, Lady Jessica and Paul Atreides. By extension they will also feature those members of House Harkonnen and Corrino. The first novel is entitled Dune: The Duke of Caladan. I am not certain as to the naming convention of the trilogy but could the second and third novels could be entitled The Lady of Caladan and The Heir of Caladan respectively. Anyway, the first novel is set for release on October 13th of 2020. And that is just around the corner.
I am very much looking forward to this trilogy, and the first iteration. The original Dune novel hinted at a number of events set just before that story. I want to know what made Emperor Shaddam IV finally decide that Duke Leto was too much of a threat. The actions that led to the fall of house Atreides are described as an irrational overreaction by a number characters in the original novel. Most notably Baron Harkonnen, Piter De Vries and Thufir Hawat. This action led to final showdown between the three houses in the final part of the novel.
As such Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are thus able to make a meaningful contribution to the original story. If only they could write it so the depth of meaning of the original is emulated. It would add so much more to their own legacy regarding the Dune book series.
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 to be published on November 24th (previously October). 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.
UPDATE: the graphic novel has since been released. It is pretty much all that I hoped it would be. You can read my review here.
Prelude to Dune comic adaptation
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 issue limited series set for the fall of 2020. The illustrator is Dev Pramanik while Alex Guimarães will act as colorist. The covers will be made by Jae Lee and Dan Mora. 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 does have appeal. The timeline it covers is beset with murder, betrayal, sex and other intrigue. The court of Emperor Shaddam’s father Elrood IX is described as a watershed moment. Dune: House Atreides #1 is set for release on October 21st. It will become available on Comixology, iBooks, Google Play and the BOOM! Studios webstore.
With that, the list of the Dune book series is complete. Unless, of course you add non-canon companion books.