I really like the first Dune novel, but I can't decide if I should read the rest of Frank Herbert's series. Having a main character who knows exactly what's going to happen really took some of the fun out of the book for me.

Do the rest of Herbert's Dune novels focus as heavily on prophecy as the original?

  • 6
    But that's the dramatic conceit. Paul knows that his actions will lead to the Jihad, and spends the majority of the book desperately trying to avoid it. Also, as Joe Straczynski said of Babylon 5: "I laid it all out in a prophecy, so you know what will happen. But you don't know the context. Sure, you know in Season 1 that B5 explodes. You don't know when, why, or anything about the context. I laid my cards on the table for you to see, but didn't tell you when and how I would play them." It's an effective way of story-telling. I encourage you to read the rest of the (fantastic) Dune books. Jul 23, 2014 at 0:45
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    On the other hand... Dune is an excellent stand-alone novel. I think Frank Herbert said everything he needed to say in that one book. Don't feel obligated to read the rest of the series - they don't really add anything, IMHO. Spend your money on something NEW.
    – Joe L.
    Jul 23, 2014 at 0:55
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    @JoeL.: You don't think God Emperor is worth reading? I admit, Dune is the best book in the series, but that doesn't make the rest of the series unenjoyable. Jul 23, 2014 at 1:18
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    Though it has been hinted at already in comments and answers: The main character does not exactly know, what is going to happen, but only some aspects of it – let’s call them X. Now while a “normal” story would be about X happening, these stories are about the main character dealing with his knowledge that X is inevitably going to happen and trying to shape the future despite this.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 23, 2014 at 7:15
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    I recommend the first 4 books (Dune thru God Emperor), but after that they get pretty weird IMHO.
    – Omegacron
    Jul 23, 2014 at 15:45

2 Answers 2


The short answer is yes and no. The next three novels in the series (Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune) have prophecy as their central and defining theme. Without spoilering the books, Paul and his children are trapped in a web of prophecy and need to find a way to escape. His son's plan is to create a "golden path" that will preserve humanity and breed a human that is invisible to prophecy.

The fifth and sixth books (Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune) are projected thousands of years into the future. Due to the genetic resistance to prophecy, most of the main characters can't be "viewed" by the various prophetic powers. The themes for these books relate more to a vast war between the humans who still live on the central planets and the humans that are returning from a diaspora into the greater part of the galaxy.

  • 5
    It's worth adding that in Dune Messiah through God Emperor of Dune, there's also a lot of exploration as to what it means for you as a person if you have access to all this prophecy, rather than on the prophecies themselves. If you knew that there was no way to escape a prophecy that said you would fail, how would you choose to continue with your life? And if you knew everything that was ever going to happen, wouldn't life be really dull? Jul 23, 2014 at 3:50
  • @Thunderforge While that does sound interesting, and like the best kind of sci-fi... The problem is that I don't want to get bored with these books while learning that. That's kind of my question. Jul 23, 2014 at 15:32
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    @thejollysin - The best rule of thumb is that if you liked Dune, you'll almost certainly enjoy the sequels.
    – Valorum
    Jul 23, 2014 at 16:35
  • I was reading a reddit thread the other day about these books, and it seemed to me that the consensus is the exact opposite. Namely that the first book is by far the best. I have read Dune a few times, but I can never get through the thick outer crust on Children of Dune to continue the saga.
    – Lumberjack
    Jul 23, 2014 at 19:51
  • @Lumberjack - I agree that the first book is generally considered to be (and is) the best of the original novels. The sequels were also good and most Dune fans would/should enjoy them.
    – Valorum
    Jul 23, 2014 at 20:14

Frank Herbert is tapping directly into the vein of Greek Tragedy "which relies on the premise that the universe is deterministic. Fate is hard-wired, and tragedy arises (1) when a hero (e.g., Oedipus) tries to resist his fate although to do so is hopeless or (2) when a hero (e.g., Agamemnon) simply accepts his fate even if it makes him feel icky; either way, the guy is doomed in advance." Gretchen Sween

The Bene Geserit had failed to understand that in achieving a perfect prophet that they would create just such a deterministic universe. This is related to the philosophical free will problem.

It is not too much of a spoiler to say that what the prophet(s) could see were two unpalatable alternatives; one for the human race and one for the prophet(s). The next 3 books explore both the Oedipean and Agamemnon solutions. IMO these three are better by far then books 5 and 6 or the prequels but not the equal of the original.

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