Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Herbert’s position as a preeminent science-fiction author who transcended the perceived bounds of his craft and enticed a large new audience to the genre—especially from college campuses—clearly rests upon Dune and its sequels. The power of his fictional world and its peoples to capture the imaginations of readers has been much analyzed, and there are many aspects and strands to the evaluations. Dune and its successors are rich in historical analogies. The feudal political setting suggests that social conflict is a Darwinian necessity—ruthlessly clearing away the old to introduce the new.
Here the reader encounters a complex balance of powers which resembles a futuristic version of the later Holy Roman Empire: the Emperor and his Sardaukar (janissary-like shock troops); the CHOAM Company, which monopolizes the spice trade (as the British East India Company once monopolized trade in India); the Landsraad or Great Houses (like Imperial Electors); the Guild, which uses the prescient qualities of spice to monopolize all shipping (like the Hansa and other trade alliances); the Ixians, who control all the nonbiological aspects of technology; the Tleilaxu, who have the secret of biological regeneration; and the all-female Bene Gesserit, whose use of spice gives each member access to the memories and personalities of those who have gone before her—a kind of drug-induced, encyclopedic knowledge of past events and a vivid example of Herbert’s...
(The entire section is 1552 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In Dune, the Atreides household is preparing to relocate from the wet planet Caladan to Arrakis, a desert planet, where Duke Leto is going to take command as the planet’s new feudal lord, replacing the Harkonnen household. A mysterious woman arrives to test young Paul, the ducal heir. She is Gaius Helen Mohaim, a member of the Bene Gesserit order, who trained Paul’s mother in the order’s almost superhuman powers. While Paul proves his ability to surmount agony, the old woman talks to him about philosophy and history.
Paul then meets with Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, and Dr. Wellington Yueh, important members of his father’s staff. Hints are planted of the forces that will drive Yueh to betray his employer.
During the actual move, Paul exhibits curiosity about the nature of the Spacing Guild, the guild of navigators who are the only ones capable of overseeing travel between planets. He is firmly warned that he must do nothing to risk the shipping priveleges of House Atreides. The Spacing Guild guards its secrets as zealously as any medieval guild, and all other powers in the galaxy are dependent on their navigational skills.
On Arrakis, Paul immediately becomes the subject of awed murmurs on the part of the residents, who have turned to religion for hope during the lengthy reign of the brutal Harkonnens over their world. Their awe is reinforced when Imperial planetologist Liet Kynes takes Paul and Duke Leto into...
(The entire section is 2049 words.)