(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although Dune did not receive universal critical acclaim on its appearance, it won both the 1965 Nebula Award (the first-ever Nebula) and a tie for the 1966 Hugo Award. The success of Dune and its sequels stems in large part from the response on college campuses. Like J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955), Frank Herbert’s book presented a traditional epic with heroic characters in a well-realized environment, augmented by appendices and a map. The ecology movement had burgeoned, and Dune consciously used the environment of the desert as dire warning. As the drug culture flowered, the psychedelic melange, or spice, served as a handy symbol for lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

Dune came early in Herbert’s career, preceded only by The Dragon in the Sea (1956; retitled Under Pressure, 1974), and fixed a benchmark for the rest of his career. It also made him one of science fiction’s most financially successful authors. The novel was filmed in 1984.

The entire Dune series unfolds from the well-conceived original. Each later volume develops the ramifications of Jessica’s decision—and that of her son Paul and grandson Leto II—to betray the Bene Gesserit guild and take the unfolding of sociopolitical events into their own hands. Paul is similar to Isaac Asimov’s “Mule” in the Foundation series. After becoming the first male Bene Gesserit in history, he...

(The entire section is 416 words.)