I’ve recently become interested in reading the Dune series. In the first half of the 1980s I read nearly all important science fiction that had appeared before about 1985, but there were just a few big classics that I don’t remember ever quite getting around to reading — such as the Dune trilogy, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Atlas Shrugged. I guess, being just a teenager back then, I was probably put off by leftist fanzine editors and critics, who had political axes to grind against such books. Looking back, and looking through the archives, I can now see that there was a lot of that sort of politicised sentiment around back then. In that respect it was fortunate that I came to Tolkien early, via The Hobbit, so such critics didn’t put me off from enjoying The Lord of the Rings.
Possibly I was also put off Dune due to David Lynch’s dire movie of Dune, which I saw on release in December 1984. But by then it was too late, as I ceased to read science-fiction after about 1986. I felt that I’d read everything that was ‘worth reading’, and wasn’t really interested in early cyberpunk. That meant that I later missed gems such as Snow Crash (1992) and the Red Mars trilogy (1993-96), until Anathem (2008) brought me back to a (highly selective) reading of literary science fiction, and I did a bit of catching up.
Anyway, thirty years later… I’ve recently decided that, for one of my ‘catch-ups’, I might like to have a try at Dune this summer or autumn. But… I find that it’s one of those book series that has been franchised and flogged to death, over the intervening decades. So there’s now a whole lot of guff to be sifted, before one can discern what the originals actually were. Such guff has included some dire movies, two so-so TV mini-series from Syfy, and several truck loads of (reputedly rather poor) prequel/sequel books.
So for the benefit of other science fiction readers, here’s the core of the ‘original’ Dune — so far as I can make out through the smog of marketing and later unpublished add-ons unearthed from Herbert’s filing-cabinets.
Reading order / story-order for the core Dune story by Frank Herbert:
1. Book 1: Dune. The unabridged audiobook reading by George Guidall is very widely said to be the best one to listen to. Also, note that the Scott Brick audiobook version is abridged.
2. The first book has a “Deleted Scenes & Chapters from…” ebooks floating around the Internet, which might be looked at after the novel.
3. Interlude: “The Road to Dune”. A short work by Frank Herbert that sits between the first two novels, to be found in his short story collection Eye. There appears to be no audiobook of this story, so it would need to be read in ebook form.
4. Book 2. Dune Messiah. The unabridged audiobook reading by Scott Brick et al. is said to be the most listen-able.
5. The second book has a “Deleted Scenes & Chapters from…” ebooks floating around the Internet, which might be looked at after the novel.
6. Book 3. Children of Dune. The unabridged audiobook reading by Scott Brick et al. is said to be the most listen-able.
7. The third book has a “Deleted Scenes & Chapters from…” ebooks floating around the Internet, which might be looked at after the novel.
8. Book 4. God Emperor of Dune. It’s by Frank Herbert, but is said to be a rather depressing and dour coda to the original trilogy. It also departs heavily from the style of the core trilogy, and is set some 3,000 years after the end of the 1967-76 trilogy. As such, I suspect I’ll be happy with just the original trilogy.
There is also:
* Dune Encyclopedia. A weighty 1984 book, sanctioned by Frank Herbert and with an introduction by him. The later, lesser, sequel/prequel books are said to have departed from the facts in this Encyclopedia.
So as far as I can make out, that’s what someone undertaking the core of Herbert’s original story, in the order it should be heard/read, would want to have cued up.