Set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which noble houses, in control of individual planets, owe allegiance to the Padishah Emperor, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose noble family accepts the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis. As this planet is the only source of the "spice" melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe, control of Arrakis is a coveted — and dangerous — undertaking. The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its "spice".
Frank Patrick Herbert, Jr. (October 8, 1920 – February 11, 1986) was an American science fiction writer best known for the novel Dune and its five sequels. Though he became famous for science fiction, he was also a newspaper journalist, photographer, short story writer, book reviewer, ecological consultant and lecturer.
The Bene Gesserit sure seem powerful—what with having more superpowers than the entire Justice League combined. But does Dune portray strong female characters beyond merely giving them superpowers? If yes, who? And why is her role important to the novel? If no, why not, and what does this say about the novel's gender politics?
(Questions to consider while tackling the above: Do you see any female characters having or obtaining social, economic, political, or cultural power? Do any females have free will beyond what the male-centered society allows them?)
The Baron Harkonnen is the only character with homosexual tendencies. Why do you suppose that only this character is given such an orientation? Does this elaborate on any themes or politics in the novel for you? If so, what, and why? If not, why not?
Dune is a novel obsessed with ecology, showing how nature shapes the lives of the organisms living in it. Pick an aspect of Arrakis that you feel better helps you understand part of our own ecology here on Earth. What is that aspect, and how does it help us understand our own ecology? What can we learn from it?
Paul begins the story as a fifteen-year-old boy, but in both film adaptations, Paul is a young adult. Why do you think the film versions altered this aspect of the novel? How does the difference change the way we read the opening scene? The ending? How about the story as a whole?
Why do you think Herbert chooses to create a universe where technology such as computers and basic communications devices (no television news?) don't exist? What thematic purpose does this serve in the novel? Why? Do you see this move weakening the novel in any way? Why or why not?