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How Many Dune Books Are There?

The world of Arrakis is vast. Let's Break it down.

Timothee Chalamet standing in the desert in the movie 'Dune'

With the release of Denis Villenueve’s adaptation and remake of the original film, Frank Herbert’s Dune science fiction series has had a revival this past year. With a cast comprised of outstanding talent, A list actors and a $165 million budget, it’s easy to see why Dune is having such a successful comeback tour. However, with every great movie, there is a high chance that a great book told the story first.

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Cover of Frank Herbert's "Dune" with man walking through sand dunes. (Image: Ace Books)
Dune 1965, Ace Books

It’s been nearly 60 years since the world was introduced to the futuristic galaxy of the immensely desolate planet of Arrakis. After first appearing in Analog Scene Fiction and Fact Magazine as a three part installment titled “Dune World,” Dune hit bookshelves around the globe in 1965. Known now as the world’s best-selling science fiction novel of all time, its hard to believe that it was rejected by 20 mainstream publishers before Clinton Book Company agreed to publish it. Book one sets up the constant need for space exploration and the need to discover original habitable planets, all whilst a zealous power struggle is taking place between two primary houses: the Atreides and the Harkonnens. Throw in an archaic collective of enlightened superhuman witches, known as the Bene Gesserit, who use mind control and superior combat skills to advance, and you have a colossal battle to obtain the one item everyone is pining for: the “spice.” The consumption of “spice,” or “melange,” allows one to perform all tasks at a highly efficient level, for extended periods of time. On a desert planet such as Arrakis, with such an unforgiving and withered climate, the spice is essential for productivity and daily life. Despite Dune taking place far into the future, Herbert creates an extremely relatable and pragmatic universe that parallels to many political, socioeconomic and geographical issues we see in current news today.

Cover of Dune Messiah shows person in cloak on top of a sand dune, looking out to multiple planets at night
Dune Messiah 1969, Ace Books

In the sequel to Dune, we dive more into the storyline of the young Paul Atreides, who is the present day emperor of Arrakis and the universe. In Dune, Paul inherits the emperor position after his father tragically dies by the hand of their enemies, the Harkonnens. Paul is constantly in a state of doubt as ruler, wondering if all of this power is worth the constant state of quarrels and affairs. He attempts to learn the ways of Arrakis natives known as the Fremen, but faces great difficulties.

Cover of Children of Dune depicts a person standing in between two mountains, that face a city skyline
Children of Dune 1976, Ace Books

We’ve made it to the halfway point of the series and things are starting to change on Arrakis. We have a shift in focus in Children of Dune, as the spotlight is on the twin children of Paul Atreides, Leto and Ghanima. Nine years ago, their father vanished without a trace, leaving his narcissistic sister and the twin’s aunt Alia in charge of the empire. Despite her deceitful tactics and potential infiltration and influence from the Harkonnens, Leto and Ghanima perceiver, while being raised with the Arrakeen born natives, the Fremen.

Cover of God Emperor of Dune; depicts multiple green landscapes full of trees, with a few planets in the background night sky
God Emperor of Dune 1981, Ace Books

Incoming time jump! Flash forward 3500 years and the planet of Arrakis is now completely devoid of sand and no longer a desolate wasteland. There’s greenery full of trees and nature as far as the eye can see. Leto, Paul Atreides’ son, has withstood the test of time by surviving up until this point by morphing into a sandworm. He is not well liked by the people of Arrakis and he has become a less than likable dictator of the planet. The plot thickens, as someone close to him has certain plans to undermine his legacy and stop his regime once and for all.

Cover of Heretics of Dune, depicts a large sand worm, with a robed person standing on top of it
Heretics of Dune 1984, Ace Books

Contrary to the last lively and abundant state of Arrakis in God Emperor of Dune, the planet has once again returned to its desolate wasteland status. The empire has fallen and the people of Arrakis are timid and unsure of what to do next. The longing for a leader is urgent. The arrival of a young woman, whose story is similar to what the late emperor Leto once prophesied would be the future of Arrakis, awakens the people of Arrakis once again.

Cover of Dune Chapterhouse ; depicts a space vessel, traveling in between two planets with a mist overlay
Chapterhouse: Dune 1985, Ace Books

The sixth and final novel in the series finds Arrakis completely destroyed and devoid of human life. The only lives that have been spared are the notorious Bene Gesserit witches. Throughout the series, they have been the masterminds behind a lot of the major events that took place. They smuggle a sandworm off of Arrakis and seek to continue their legacy on their home planet, which is inspiration for the book title: Chapterhouse.

There’s a reason why the 6 books in the Dune series continue to be among the most popular science fiction novels after all of this time. The execution of the plots and the extreme attention to detail make for your ideal new book series obsession. It’s probably not a bad idea to get ahead of the curve, as Dune Part II is currently filming and has a release date for late fall 2023. Be prepared to become completely devoid of human interaction and immersed in this universe, as the imagination of Frank Herbert takes you on a wild journey.

(featured image: Warner Bros.)

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Kyra Navarrete
Kyra Navarrete (she/her) is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue and has spent the past five years navigating her way through the freelance journalism world. She is the founder and co-host of "Relatable Nerds," a nerdy pop culture podcast that discusses everything from Star Wars to Marvel, and everything in between. Kyra also travels and works with various comic conventions across the country, moderating panels, conducting interviews and production assisting. Chicago is home for her and her fierce and mighty pup, Han Solo. You can most likely find her at the dive bar she runs a few nights a week or re-reading Dune for the fifth time.

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