The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Dune series can be seen as a set of three two-volume novels. The first involves the family of Paul Atreides, its battle for the planet Arrakis, and Paul’s coming of age as the messianic Muad’Dib. The second concerns the life of Paul’s son Leto II, from childhood to his ascendancy as God Emperor of Dune. The third deals with the ongoing machinations of the Bene Gesserit (an ancient society of women devoted to mind and body control and eugenics) in their attempt to control the sociopolitical environment of the Dune universe millennia later, as well as the ramifications of their betrayal by the Atreides family. Dune itself was rejected by twenty-two publishers before being accepted by Chilton of Philadelphia. It remained in print for at least the next thirty years.

In Dune, the Atreides family emigrates from their home world of Caladan to the desert world of Arrakis, pressured by the political dalliances of the Emperor Shaddam IV. Arrakis (Dune) had been controlled by the Baron Harkonnen, and it was there that he had gained his great wealth from trade in melange, a psychedelic spice. Melange is essential to the functioning of all elements of society, including the Spacing Guild, for which it ensures the ability to fold space.

The Harkonnens set a trap for the Atreides family in which Duke Leto Atreides and his weapons specialist, Duncan Idaho, are killed. His Bene Gesserit consort, Jessica, and their son, Paul, flee to the domain of the Fremen, the desert people of Arrakis. Once there, Paul partakes of melange and begins to show signs that he is the Kwisatz Haderach, a messiah-like culmination of the Bene Gesserit’s breeding program. Jessica was supposed to have had a girl, who would be married to the Harkonnen boy Feyd-Rautha, thus solidifying the aristocratic alliances and placing the Bene Gesserit fully in command of galactic political affairs. The Bene Gesserit time line is thrown off, and sociopolitical upheaval ensues. The rest of the novel involves the Atreideses’ attempt to retake the planet of Arrakis from the deposed Harkonnens and the installation of Paul as its ruler.

All of this occurs in the intricately realized ecology of the desert planet. The desert is essential to the complex life cycle of the sandworms, whose larval forms, the sandtrout, produce melange. A vast...

(The entire section is 957 words.)