Should I read Dune in chronological order?

12 February 2024
Frank Herbert's Dune saga, a cornerstone of science fiction literature and possibly the greatest science fiction novel I have ever read, offers a complex universe filled with political intrigue, environmental themes, and deep philosophical questions.

The series originally began with Dune in 1965 and expanded to include six novels followed by additional prequels and sequels co-authored by Brian Herbert, Frank's son, and Kevin J. Anderson (following Frank's death). This expansion has prompted a recurring question among new and returning readers:

 

Should one read Dune in chronological order?


List of Dune Novels in Order of Release

To consider the merits of reading the series in chronological order, it's important to distinguish between publication order and the chronological order of the story's universe. The original Dune is the first published but not the earliest in the series' timeline, which is expanded through prequels such as Dune: The Butlerian Jihad. Reading in chronological order means starting with these prequels before moving to the original series.

Reading the series in chronological order can enhance the depth of narrative context but there is sooo much to get to before you'd even read a sentence of the 1965 novel.

The prequels set the stage for the universe detailing the historical events that lead to the socio-political climate of the original series. This approach offers a comprehensive understanding of the series' complex universe, including the origins of key factions like the political manipulators, the Bene Gesserit, the Spacing Guild, and the Mentats. For readers who appreciate a deep dive into world-building, starting from the very beginning of the chronological timeline can be enriching.

The Argument for Publication Order!


The merits of reading in chronological order must be balanced against the argument for reading the series in the order of publication. Frank Herbert's original was crafted to introduce readers to the universe without the need for prior knowledge, weaving exposition seamlessly into the narrative.

This is the only reason you need. Start with the original and then decide for yourself, like some kind of weird Star Wars machete order approach.

... and while we are talking Star Wars - take a quick side step into the Dune universe's inspiration on George Lucas' original scripting for what became A New Hope.

The original series sets up mysteries and reveals that might be spoiled by reading the prequels first. Moreover, the writing style and thematic focus evolve over time, with some arguing that the original works offer a more compelling entry point to the universe.

List of Dune Novels in Order of Release

Name of NovelYear of PublicationAuthor(s)Year in Universe
Dune1965Frank Herbert10,191 A.G.
Dune Messiah1969Frank Herbert10,196 A.G.
Children of Dune1976Frank Herbert10,206 A.G.
God Emperor of Dune1981Frank Herbert10,256 A.G. - 13,725 A.G.
Heretics of Dune1984Frank Herbert15,202 A.G.
Chapterhouse: Dune1985Frank Herbert15,204 A.G.
House Atreides1999Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,154 A.G.
House Harkonnen2000Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,187 A.G.
House Corrino2001Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,193 A.G.
The Butlerian Jihad2002Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson201 B.G.
The Machine Crusade2003Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson164 B.G.
The Battle of Corrin2004Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson88 B.G.
Hunters of Dune2006Brian Herbert, Kevin J. AndersonApprox. 15,216 A.G.
Sandworms of Dune2007Brian Herbert, Kevin J. AndersonApprox. 15,216 A.G.
Paul of Dune2008Brian Herbert, Kevin J. AndersonInterquels of 10,191 A.G. and 10,196 A.G.
The Winds of Dune2009Brian Herbert, Kevin J. AndersonInterquels of 10,196 A.G. and 10,206 A.G.
Sisterhood of Dune2011Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson83 B.G.
Mentats of Dune2014Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,176 A.G.
Navigators of Dune2016Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,178 A.G.
The Duke of Caladan2020Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,190 A.G.
The Lady of Caladan2021Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,190 A.G.
The Heir of Caladan2022Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,190 A.G.

List of Dune Novels in Chronological order

If you want to read Dune as the events unfold in the universe, here's the order!

Name of NovelYear of PublicationAuthor(s)Year Set in Dune Universe
The Butlerian Jihad2002Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,000 BG - 210 BG
The Machine Crusade2003Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson210 BG - 200 BG
The Battle of Corrin2004Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson200 BG - 88 BG
Sisterhood of Dune2011Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,470 AG
Mentats of Dune2014Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,490 AG
Navigators of Dune2016Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,506 AG
House Atreides1999Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,140 AG
House Harkonnen2000Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,154 AG
House Corrino2001Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,164 AG
The Duke of Caladan2020Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,185 AG
The Lady of Caladan2021Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,186 AG
The Heir of Caladan2022Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,187 AG
Dune1965Frank Herbert10,191 AG
Paul of Dune2008Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,193 AG - 10,196 AG
Dune Messiah1969Frank Herbert10,196 AG
The Winds of Dune2009Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson10,196 AG - 10,204 AG
Children of Dune1976Frank Herbert10,204 AG
God Emperor of Dune1981Frank Herbert10,220 AG - 13,725 AG
Heretics of Dune1984Frank Herbert15,202 AG
Chapterhouse: Dune1985Frank Herbert15,216 AG
Hunters of Dune2006Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson15,220 AG+
Sandworms of Dune2007Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson15,220 AG+

Please note the use of "BG" (Before Guild) and "AG" (After Guild) to indicate the years relative to the establishment of the Spacing Guild, a key event that marks the division between eras in the Dune universe. 

The timeline provided here serves to place each novel within the broader context of the series' complex history, offering readers a chronological framework to understand the sequence of events and their significance within the expansive and detailed Dune saga.

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