Walk without rhythm.
Arrakis... Dune... desert planet.
Popular series of Science Fiction
novels, originated by Frank Herbert
and continued after his death by son Brian Herbert. The original novel was rejected twenty times by various publishers before finally being published in 1965 by Chilton, a publishing house best known for its DIY auto repair guides.
The novel is set approximately 19000 years in The Future
, in a galaxy-spanning empire loosely based on the Holy Roman and Ottoman Empires
, ruled by feuding nobles
, arcane religious sects, and Byzantine corporate monopolies. Its five sequels by the original author, and further prequels and sequels by Brian Herbert, span nearly 20,000 years of galactic history overall.
Much of the action throughout the series takes place on the eponymous planet, Arrakis, commonly called Dune by the native Fremen. Arrakis is a desert planet
largely populated by the nomadic, xenophobic Fremen and inhabited by giant sandworms
that destroy anything caught out in the open, and would be of little interest to the rest of the galaxy if not for one thing: it is the only known source of "Spice
", an all-purpose chemical that triples the human lifespan
, makes it possible for females (and some few males) to transfer ancestral memories
to one another, unlocks or enhances the capacity of humans for telling the future
, and therefore makes Faster-Than-Light Travel
possible in a culture where computers have been made illegal by religious fiat—all while being ferociously addictive.
The entire series is steeped in Arabic language and culture; it is implied that, in the distant future in which the books are set, Western and Eastern culture and religion have blended together into a pseudo-homogeneous whole. Religions such as "Mahayana Christianity" and "Zensunni" are referred to though not explicitly described, and many Arabic words have found their way into the standard language spoken by the people of the Galactic Empire, especially after the Fremen crusade spreads aspects of their culture to thousands of worlds. (An extensive glossary is included in the first novel, without which many readers might find it incomprehensible) The Bene Gesserit sisterhood, an order of philosopher-nuns that considers itself the guardian of human civilization, extensively manipulate various religions over a scale of thousands of years in order to protect their agenda. Paul Atreides and his son Leto II, through their actions in the first four novels, effectively creates a religion of his own, with effects that reverberate throughout the millennia.
In the 2000s, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
said they used notes from Herbert found in a safety deposit box to write prequels and two sequels to the Dune series. These books comprise ten novels overall—the "Legends of Dune" trilogy which covers the rise of the Empire and the Spacing Guild some 10,000 years prior to the original novel; the "Prelude To Dune" trilogy which follows the conflict between Leto Atreides and Vladimir Harkonnen in the years prior to Paul's birth; Hunters of Dune
and Sandworms of Dune
, two sequels which complete the second trilogy started by the elder Herbert; and Paul of Dune
and The Winds of Dune
, a pair of Interquels
set between the novels of the original trilogy.
Unfortunately, they were not very well received. FHM magazine once speculated that while they may have begun with notes from a deposit box, by the time of the last books they were down to a Post-it Frank left on the fridge saying "NOTE: Write more Dune books". Penny Arcade
's assessment of these books was rather... blunt.
Works in this franchise include:
Original Books By Frank Herbert:
Prequel/Sequel Books by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson:
- Dune: House Atreides
- Dune: House Harkonnen
- Dune: House Corrino
- Paul of Dune
- The Winds of Dune
- Hunters of Dune
- Sandworms of Dune
Video Game Adaptations:
Tabletop Game Adaptations:
The Dune Series contains examples of:
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- Absent Aliens: Unless you count the Sandworms, and their implied creators. Even then, the sentience was added after the fact, by Leto II.
- Plenty of non-sentient species are also mentioned in passing. There's a lot of life in the universe, but none of it talks back.
- The final two books introduce two species, one primitive and questionably sentient (the cat-like Futars), and the other vaguely intelligent (the fish-like Phibians). Both were still created by the Tleilaxu (or some variant thereof) so they are not strictly alien.
- In one of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's books , an extinct human order, the Muadru, are implied to know the non-Arrakis location that the Sandworms came from. This may mean that even the Sandworms are human creations.
- In the out of print Encyclopedia of Dune the Natives of Caladan are sentient: morons by human standards and around Stone Age level of technology, but sentient all the same. They are mentioned maybe once in the series proper though. Mind you, the Encyclopedia is not fully Canon.
- Accidental Marriage: Paul, before adapting to Fremen culture, asks Chani to carry his water tokens for him without realizing that only a betrothed does this for a man, making his offer tantamount to a proposal.
- Paul's defeat of Jamis also counts, since he didn't realize he'd inherit Jamis' widow out of it — though, given the choice between accepting Harah as wife or as servant, he chooses the latter. (Having killed her husband, he's required to take responsibility for her either way; on the other hand, there's the succession of House Atreides to consider, as well as the fact that he doesn't particularly want to marry Harah in any case.)
- Achey Scars: Gurney Halleck sports a long, red scar along his face that chronically delivers residual pain due to abuse suffered from the poisonous plant inkvine during his time as a Harkonnen slave.
- Achilles' Heel: Leto II, at the end of Children of Dune combines his body with sandworm larvae to extend his life by thousands of years and gain immunity to almost every form of physical damage, also inherits the sandworms' vulnerability to water. Of course, this is intentional and part of his plan.
- Action Girl / Action Mom:
- Jessica as well in the first book, when she has to be. Her fight with Stilgar is a good example: short, to the point, and lets her and Paul introduce themselves to the Fremen properly.
- Addiction Powered:
- Guild Navigators breathe great quantities of melange/spice, giving them limited powers of prescience, enough to find safe passage when their ship is traveling faster than light. The general population doesn't gain this benefit.
- The Mentats derive their enhanced mental abilities (said to exceed even the most advanced electronic computers) via consumption of sapho juice; however, a Mentat must endure lifelong training (and probably genetic enhancement as well) before the sapho juice can have its stated effect.
- Bene Gesserits depend on some drugs and the Spice for some of their abilities, each Reverend Mother is addicted.
- Adipose Rex: Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is grotesquely obese, but counteracts this by wearing small anti-gravity devices that make him as agile as a healthy young man.
- Aerith and Bob: While the first book introduces many distinctly-European names, such as Paul, Jessica, Gurney, and Duncan (even Baron Harkonnen, whose first name is Vladimir), the names get far more exotic as the cast fills out throughout the series. Notable examples include Hasimir Fenring, Hwi Noree, many Fremen, and the Latin-European-Greek full names of the Bene Gesserit.
- Aesoptinum / Does This Remind You of Anything? : The Spice. It's one of the few clear-cut allegories in the book — a precious resource absolutely vital to the economy, much like gold in past eras and oil today. To hammer the point home, Herbert even compared the CHOAM company (which oversees the Imperium's commerce, including spice procurement) in one interview to Real Life international trade organizations, including OPEC. As for the Aesop : Humans Are Greedy Bastards and will often do anything in order to collect as much spice as possible, including armed conflicts, espionage, assasinations, and a great variety of immoral acts, all out of blind wilfulness and greed. Thus, Paul (and later Leto II) act against humanity's immediate desires in order to save it from itself.
- Ripped from the Headlines: When the first book was written, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East were undergoing decolonization; the client states in those regions set up friendly local governments to ensure access to the natural resources their former colonies had provided, a process that had profound economic and geopolitical consequences (especially vis a vis the Cold War). In particular, the OPEC cartel was formed during this period.
- A Father to His Men: Lampshaded when Duke Leto Atreides risks his life and the priceless Spice to save his men; Liet-Kynes comments that a man such as that would inspire fanatical loyalty. It's implied that this is exactly why the Emperor wants him dead, because he fears Leto will use his popularity to depose him. There are further hints that this may be a mask designed expressly for the purpose, although it's explicitly contradicted by the prequels.
- Miles Teg also fits this, considering he closely resembles Duke Leto physically, this was probably intentional.
- A God Am I: When Paul fully awakens his potential as Kwisatz Haderach he becomes a messiah to peoples of thousands of worlds, only to be elevated to the status of god in the millennia following his death. His son, Leto II, grinds into the people of the universe that he is a god more for the sociological outcome rather than personal lust for power. After Paul's death, his status as a god is less widespread compared to his son's.
- A God I Am Not: Paul as 'The Preacher' in Children of Dune.
- Agony Beam/Hand in the Hole/Life or Limb Decision: The ritual of the gom jabbar is a test employed by the Bene Gesserit, performed by requiring the examinee to put her hand into a box that causes excruciating pain by nerve induction. A poison-coated needle — the gom jabbar itself — is then held to the "victim's" neck with the threat of instant death should she withdraw her hand without permission. The test is whether the person can master her instinctive desire to flee the pain, thus proving her "humanity". Paul Atreides is one of the few males to be administered the test, and his passing of it is seen as a sign of his future role as the Kwisatz Haderach.
"He thought he could feel skin curling black on that agonized hand, the flesh crisping and dropping away until only charred bones remained."
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot
- In the original books, it was not that the computers were inherently bad, it was that humanity chose to destroy them because they were making humans lazy and limiting humanity's potential, effectively making them dependent on sentient machines for survival. Computer AI was later demonized.
- In the prequels, Omnius was actually doing what he was programmed to do (the conquest and enslavement of humanity), he just decided to work for himself, and not his Titan masters.
- Alternative Calendar: The calender used in the book begins from the establishment of the Spacing Guild's monopoly on space travel, with BG standing for "Before Guild" and AG being "After Guild".
- In addition it's implied that the (3000-year) reign of the Leto II has in effect become a calendar.
- Amazon Brigade:
- Fish Speakers, Honored Matres, and the Bene Gesserit.
- Alia's female guards are also explicitly referred to as amazons.
- Serena Butler's all-female guards also quality, even though they're actually loyal to Iblis Ginjo. They are strong enough to be able to break a person's neck with single kick (as one of them does to Serena at Ginjo's orders).
- A Million Is a Statistic: This is Paul's horror at seeing the future in the first book, which becomes true in the second. There's a scene where he compares himself to Hitler — "He killed more than six million. Pretty good for those days... Statistics: at a conservative estimate, I've killed sixty-one billion, sterilized ninety planets, completely demoralized five hundred others. I've wiped out the followers of forty religions..."
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Frank Herbert stated he based the Harkonnens on the Nazis.
- Ancient Astronauts/All Myths Are True: A variant in that humans themselves fill this role, with the Bene Gesserit purposely spreading myths based on heroic and religious archetypes throughout fledgling colonies to make use of the people there later.
- Ancient Conspiracy: Although they are more visible than most ancient conspiracies, the Bene Gesserit definitely count: they have manipulated practically all existing religions in the Dune universe to be tools for their purposes, to the point a Bene Gesserit can basically go to any planet and detect different cues and codes within the local religion's tenets to know exactly what to say and do to present herself as a paragon, prophet or even messiah of the local religion. This is how Lady Jessica insinuates herself and Paul into the Fremen culture. Of course, Jessica had no way of knowing Paul would become an ACTUAL messiah.
- And I Must Scream: Leto II's awareness supposedly exists in each of the sandtrout and sandworms produced from his body. In his words, he is a pearl of awareness locked in an endless dream. The Axlotl tanks of the Bene Tleilax are no better.
- Animal Assassin: In Children of Dune, one daughter of the deposed Emperor develops a plot to assassinate Paul's children Leto II and Ghanima with conditioned Laza Tigers.
- Anti-Magic: Due to Leto II breeding the Siona gene into humanity, a substantial portion of the human population (including all of the Bene Gesserit) cannot be seen within prescient visions, thereby preventing the prophet's trap. No-Ships as well.
- Anti-Villain: Farradin Corrino is built up as the villain of Children of Dune. The ending reveals that he becomes a trusted companion of Leto II, and that he is the one whose quotes have been peppered throughout the novel.
- Anyone Can Die: Paul, Chani, Alia, Leto, Leto II, Duncan Idaho several times, Teg, Lucilla, Odrade...
- Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Justified. Personal shields block projectile weapons and lasers trigger nuclear-level explosions when they hit them, but a slow-moving blade can slip through, so melee combat is once again part and parcel of infantry battles.
- Arc Words: "The Golden Path" defines the entire series after the second book, and only becomes more and more powerful as you fully come to realize what it means.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Probably the only exception is Duke Leto. And even then, only maybe. Averted in the prequels — the Atreides are almost always benevolent, and the Ecazi, Richese, and Vernius families are more or less good. Too bad Being Good Sucks. A few more good ones in the prequels describing the Butlerian Jihad, including some of the Butlers, Tantors, and Porce Bludd (but not his great-uncle Niko Bludd, a complete Jerk Ass).
- The Harkonnens (before Abulurd's exile to Lankiveil) also qualify as exceptions. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's half-brother Abulurd II is also unusually docile for a Harkonnen.
- Leto II's thoughts:
’’"The surest sign that an aristocracy exists is the discovery of barriers against change, curtains of iron or steel or stone or of any substance which excludes the new, the different”’’
- Artificial Human: Any Tleilaxu-creation, including the Face Dancers, Gholas, clones, some Mentats, and human-animal hybrids.
- Ascended Extra: Duncan Idaho, in the first book, actually dies only to become the only character to feature in all six novels of the original series.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Subverted. Early on, Paul earns credibility among the Fremen by reluctantly killing one who challenged him to combat. The Fremen, like the Bedouin culture they loosely parallel, have a culture that values "honor," defended through bloodshed. Also, they expect their leaders to succeed by killing their predecessors. Though the Fremen take him for a Messiah and see his leadership as inevitable, he refuses to take the place of the tribe leader Stilgar by killing him. He takes power instead after an impassioned speech deploring the idea of sacrificing a loyal and talented soldier to such a brutal custom. This compels Stilgar to step down, and the Fremen accept Paul's leadership.
- He actually manages a clever bit of political maneuvering, side-stepping the issue when others would have forced his hand, by having the Fremen pledge their loyalty to him not as a tribal leader, but as their Duke (claiming his father's title and right to rule the planet by Imperial law).
- Played straight with the Honored Matres in Chapterhouse: Dune.
- As You Know: Literally entire chapters of it. One chapter begins with the villain introducing himself by name to his henchmen — "Is it not a magnificent thing that I, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, do?" — and continues with him explaining his plan to the henchman who helped him to devise it. Justified in that (a) they were recapitulating their plan for the benefit of Feyd-Rautha, whose patience and attention span were equally short; and (b) the Baron himself is a gloriously Large Ham, and arrogant to boot (and one of the few times when he actually admits to having done a mistake solely by his own fault, it's about being overly fond of describing plans when he shouldn't).
- This trope is also extensively employed in the Anderson/Brian Herbert novels.
- Attack Pattern Alpha: Various Houses each have their own, mostly secret languages that are dead to other populations.
- Author Catchphrase:
- "Plans within plans...wheels within wheels..."
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Sardaukar are trained to fight in formations of three so that they never have an exposed back.
- Badass: Paul. Baron Harkonnen. Leto Atreides. Gurney Halleck. Duncan Idaho. Liet Kynes. Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. And that's just the first book.
- Badass Normal: Leto Atreides for certain. Vladimir and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen as well. Most of the Imperial Sardaukar and Paul's Fremen troops also count.
- Badass Army: The Sardaukar at first, then they are joined in this category by the Fremen under Paul Atreides. Also, the Fish Speakers under Leto II, and then Miles Teg's Bene Gesserit troops in Heretics and Chapterhouse.
- Badass Bookworm: Pretty much everyone that isn't a Genius Bruiser.
- Badass Creed: See page quote.
- Badass Family: Atreides
- Barbarian Tribe: The "evil barbarians" mindset is inverted with the Fremen. While the rest of the universe definitely see them as barbarians, they have a much more complex, honor-based culture driven to barbarian-horde status only by the harsh world they must survive on.
- Bastard Understudy: Feyd attempts this role with his uncle, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, but the attempt fails.
- The Battlestar: The Ballista-class battleships are the main warships used by the League Armada in the prequels. Besides formidable weaponry, they carry 20 troop transports, 15 shuttles, 50 patrol craft, and 200 Kindjal Space Fighters. Each one also has a crew of 1500. They are later equipped with Deflector Shields and Holtzmann drives.
- Bawdy Song: Gurney Halleck, troubador-warrior that he is, provides a song ("Galacian Girls") that focuses mainly on prostitution:
The Galacian girls do it for pearls,
And the Arrakeen for water!
But if you desire dames like consuming flames,
Try a Caladanin daughter!
- Beastly Bloodsports: Duke Leto's father was killed in a bullfight. The prequels by Brian Herbert added that the bull that killed him was hopped up on stimulants rather than sedated like it should have been. A tool of assassination. The original didn't attribute any foul play.
- Because Destiny Says So: How much of Dune and its sequels are The Chosen One acting out a preordained destiny, and how much is actually the Messianic Archetype choosing his own destiny and then being forced to live it out unto the bitter end? Frank Herbert would like you to think about it.
- Bedouin Rescue Service: In Dune, Jessica and Paul Atreides are rescued by Fremen. They then have to jump through religious hoops and trial by personal combat to prove that they're worth saving. Of course, they were deliberately seeking out the Fremen, and the Fremen were primed by the religious mythos seeded by the Missionaria Protectiva to look for a Messiah, which Paul and Jessica were trained to exploit. Otherwise they'd have been killed out of hand. Additionally, many Fremen tribes were warned by their leader, Liet, to watch for Jessica and Paul. The novel lays this out clearly through a scene where Liet-Kynes helps them hide from the Harkonnens.
- Belief Makes You Stupid: Inverted, Subverted, Justified, and Invoked. All depends on your personal interpretation, and which characters you examine. Frank himself said one of the main themes of the series was putting all your faith into one person and following them blindly. You can follow someone, but to utterly submit to them leads to total destruction.
- Becoming the Mask: Happens to Face Dancers that spend too long imitating a person.
- Beware the Superman: Main theme of the series.
- Big Bad: The Harkonnens, the Tleilaxu, Alia (once she's possessed by the Baron), Omnius. The Moritani in the prequels.
- Largely averted in Dune itself. Baron Harkonnen is The Heavy, but completely ignorant of the deeper machinations and plays no role in the denouement. The Emperor is nominal in charge, but he's having his strings pulled by the Bene Gesserit and the Guild. The Guild is largely The Unseen, while Gaius Helen Mohiam's influence is subtle.
- Big Book of War: While not strictly a book, Kanly are the formal restrictions and rules in place on political vendettas between royal houses. There does exist, however, the Assassin's Handbook, which deals with poisons and other weapons of war.
- Big Eater: Miles Teg in Heretics of Dune undergoes a transformation that unlocks his Super Speed powers, and as a consequence, has to consume many, many normal human portions to satisfy his hunger. Justified as his metabolism is accelerated to compensate for the increased energy demands. This is commented upon with amazement by the people who observe him eat.
- Bilingual Bonus: Cielago, the Fremen term used for bats, is based off of the Spanish word for 'bat': ' murcielago '.
- Also true for the general Fremen language, which is largely based on actual Arabic terms and phrases. And the Teilaxu secret language as well.
- Both the "Bene Geserit" and their creation, the "Kwizats Haderach", to Hebrew speakers.
- Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: There are no female Tleilaxu. This is because the axlotl tanks are their females, having been engineered into being just gigantic wombs on life support.
- Black and Gray Morality: The novels are consistently and deliberately ambiguous about the relative morality of each of the various factions. House Atreides, the most conventionally moral of the Great Houses depicted in the story, is made to pay heavily for its idealism, and even that is called into question by the prequels. Paul slaughters billions under the godhead of the Madhinate, and his son Leto II is the greatest tyrant in history; yet both claimed their actions were necessary to avoid an even greater catastrophe — the complete and total extinction of humanity. (And considering that Paul and Leto both share an ability to see into the future, they are probably right.) The Bene Gesserit are similarly portrayed as scheming witches, yet by the time of Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, they have inherited the responsibility of safeguarding humanity's future.
- Blatant Lies: In the first novel, Stilgar tries to put Jessica at ease by assuring her that Fremen men do not take women by force. However, readers have already been introduced to the Fremen custom of male duel victors inheriting the wives of their vanquished opponents (and everything that implies). The Fremen justify this practice by saying that the victor is assuming the responsibility of caring for his vanquished foe's wife, but the wife is still a spoil of war who doesn't get a say in the matter.
- Stilgar's assurance to Jessica is cruelly subverted in the second novel. The Fremen have brutalized entire planets that resisted Paul's rise to the throne. It is clearly and casually stated that Fremen men have raped women on those planets. Then again, the nature of their crusade has changed their culture by this time, and it's clear even in Messiah that many of them came home damaged by what they saw and/or did.
- Blessed with Suck: You can see the future. All of it. Every twist, turn, nook, and cranny. There are no surprises. There is no escape. You will never live something that you have not already foreseen. It's even worse for Alia: she has access to the genetic memory of all her ancestors. Unfortunately, this includes her grandfather, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation : Several translations into certain foreign languages. Especially common in first editions.
- Blind Seer: After Paul loses his sight in an assassination attempt he substitutes his precient memory of the future instead. He literally knows exactly what's going to happen moment to moment and fits his actions seamlessly into that vision. Later, he chooses to "forget" his vision when overcome with grief over Chani's death, and loses it completely when Leto II takes the oracular reins from him in Children of Dune.
- Body Horror: Leto II in demiworm form, Guild Steersmen mutated by spice, the Axlotl tanks.
- Brain in a Jar: The prequels have brain-jar villains riding around in giant war machines (just because they can), who cause the Butlerian Jihad through poor programming of their computerized inside "man" and wind up as minions/slaves themselves. Besides the Titans (giant war machines ), are the Cogitors, humans who gave up their bodies to spend millennia contemplating the mysteries of the universe. As a group they have declared themselves neutral in the war where humanity is being exterminated like rats.
- Break the Cutie: A very disturbing example from House Harkonnen is the prolonged and violent forced prostitution (and eventual murder) of Gurney Halleck's gentle younger sister Bheth. First she is kidnapped by the Harkonnens for trying to protect her brother. Then they cut out her larynx so she can't do more than scream wordlessly. Next she is subjected to 6 years (starting at age 17) of sadistic rape and torture by a recorded 4620 Harkonnen soldiers. Rabban finally kills her in retribution of Gurney's attempt on his life.
- Brother-Sister Incest/Twincest:
- Children of Dune, while treating incest as a theme, does not create such feelings Leto II and his sister Ghanima. Ghanima says "I will not bear your children, brother," to which Leto replies, "I love you, my sister, but that is not the way my thought tends." They do end up marrying each other, but it is nonsexual and actually meant to invoke pharaonic-archetypes of ancient Egypt.
- Paul and Alia have incestuous overtones in Dune Messiah. At one point, Alia engages a sparring robot nude, before Paul stops her from killing herself. It's certainly not helped by the Bene Gesserit's clear intention to find a way of bargaining for Paul and his sister to produce an heir.
- Brother-Sister Team: Leto II and Ghanima are twins, as well as pre-born. This makes them the only people capable of mutually understanding each other in the entire universe. Paul and Alia to a lesser degree.
- Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: The Bene Gesserit arrange marriages for the members of their sisterhood.
- Paul's marriage to Princess Irulan certainly counts.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: In the Dune Encyclopedia, under "Atomics", they mentioned the first ever use of the weapons was by House Washington (the USA) in a "provincial conflict."
- Butt Monkey: Duncan is reincarnated as a ghola. Again. And again. And again. And again. And killed (rather than dying of old age) only a slightly smaller number of times.
- By the Eyes of the Blind: Inverted. Siona and her descendants cannot be detected by prescience.
- The Caligula: The Harkonnens are an entire family of Caligulas. Gladiatorial death sports, hunting humans as game, bizarre sexual practices, murdering random servants, obscenely expensive luxuries, drug addiction, torture as entertainment—they did it all.
- Came Back Strong: Paul Atreides almost dies when he drinks the water of life, and when he wakes up he is the Kwisatz Haderach.
- Norma Cenva is tortured by the cymeks until she releases a destructive psychic wave of her latent powers. The wave not only kills her captors but also destroys her body. In that instant, she gets access to Other Memory and rebuilds her body molecule-by-molecule into that of an extremely attractive woman. She also becomes the most powerful sorceress of all.
- Cannot Tell a Lie: Mentats. In the books, the Bene Gesserit are also explicitly said to be incapable of outright lying, due to their training and method of consciousness expansion. Because of this, they have become masters of evasion and misdirection. "A Bene Gesserit will always tell the truth, but rarely the whole truth." (paraphrased)
- Averted in the prequels, where the first mentat Gilbertus Albans lies constantly in order to protect himself and Erasmus.
- The Captain: In the first novel, during the Atreides Dukedom, military leaders of the House (Gurney Halleck, Duncan Idaho and presumably others) bear the title "Captains", despite them leading entire armies. This falls in line to the medieval setting, as Captain General was the rank of a commander-in-chief during The Late Middle Ages.
- The Casanova: Duncan Idaho, dear god. Described as having a devastating masculine appearance and animal magnetism. Brought back to life as a ghola hundreds of times to be used as a stud in various sex-related schemes that resulted in thousands of children and eventually millions of people with his genes. This comes full-circle when the Tleilaxu conditioning he receives from his last incarnation allows him to seduce an Honored Matre.
- Cat Girl: The Futars introduced in Heretics of Dune are the creation of Lost Tleilaxu returning from the Scattering. They're basically humanoid cat-people, and are kept as pets and feral weapons by the Honored Matres, despite being designed originally as weapons against them..
- The Chains of Commanding: The Atreides bear a lot on their shoulders.
- Challenging the Chief: Subverted; Paul refuses to face Stilgar in ritual combat because they both knew Paul would win and Paul wants him to remain chief for his role as a loyal political adviser. As he puts it, killing Stilgar would be like cutting off his own right arm.
- Character Tics:
- Hasimir Fenring and his wife annoyingly hum while they speak, read as "Uhhh-hmmmmmmmm" every time. It's actually their private code language, use to share information between themselves secretly while in front of other people.
- The Baron apparently tapped his fingers during anxiety or boredom, as shown in Children of Dune when Alia becomes possessed with her ego-memories of him.
- Done in a different fashion in the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries. The Baron has a habit of rubbing at his cheeks or temples with the first two fingers of his hand whenever he grows frustrated or annoyed; we later see Paul making the exact same gesture.
- Charles Atlas Superpower:
- The Bene Gesserit train themselves to alter their blood composition, manipulate others by voice alone, being able to hold their breath for long periods of time, delay aging, neutralize any poison or drug, possibly see the future, and intense martial arts. They only get the future-vision and molecular control from the Spice. Everything else is pure Charles Atlas, with a few hints of selective breeding.
- The Honored Matres are revealed to be even more intense in their results in certain areas, but lack in others. The two groups eventually unify into one, combining the strengths of each.
- Mentats as well are "human computers". They are trained to possess photographic memories and deduce perfectly logical conclusions from the barest minimum of information. A Mentat Advisor is one of the most valuable assets that a noble house can have; when he first landed on Arrakis, Paul had just found that he had potential Mentat capabilities himselfnote — to quote Duke Leto, "a Mentat Duke would be formidable indeed". And, later, a Mentat Kwisatz Haderach. Miles Teg in the later novels is a mentat generalissimo. But just try using one as an iPod.
- Chekhov's Gunman: "Princess Irulan," the lady who's writing the Encyclopedia Exposita about Paul from which the novel's Epigraphs come. Even though her name has been on every fifth page of the book, she doesn't show up in person until the last 20 or so, and we don't learn until the very last page (or, if you prefer, for another two books) just why she's so interested in chronicling him.
- Chemical Messiah: Melange is this.
- The Chessmaster: Practically every named character originating from the Imperium and not from Arrakis, to varying degrees. Every single one of whom is Out-Gambitted by Paul, and later Leto II.
- In the final two novels Erasmus is proven to be rather adept at it as well. He insinuates that he was behind most of the schemes and subtly manipulated half the events of the final few novels.
- Child Of Two Worlds: Jessica and her son Paul Atreides are both Harkonnens as well, since Jessica is really Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's daughter. Combining the Atreides and Harkonnen bloodlines is a necessary part of the Reverend Mothers' plan to sire the Kwisatz Haderach.
- The Chosen One/Messianic Archetype: Paul as the Kwisatz Haderach, Leto II as his successor, Sheeana in the final two books, though she doesn't get to fulfill that role, being instead set up for it as a decoy to get the Honored Matres to destroy Arrakis. Her ability to command sandworms is still useful, though.
- Circling Vultures: After Liet-Kynes is left in the desert to die, he sees hawks (the Dune equivalent of vultures) circling overhead.
- The Clan: Feuding Houses of noble families play a large part in the first book, though the Atreides name carries down through the millennia.
- Clingy Costume: As a matter of survival. The climate of Arrakis is such that the Fremen must wear their stillsuits at all times outside sietches, and sometimes even inside, as they have a deeply ingrained cultural taboo against wasting water. Subverted later, when Stilgar notes in disgust how many Fremen who have achieved high positions within Muad'Dib's Empire never wear stillsuits anymore when they go into the desert, as they can afford to waste water. Anyone who has smelt an old wetsuit might work out why they were keen to stop, and it is outright stated that Fremen stink in closed spaces.
- Cloning Blues: Gholas (clones of the dead), especially the multiple incarnations of Duncan Idaho.
- Cloning Body Parts: In the prequels the early Tleilaxu were known as suppliers of transplantable organs that they grew on trees. However, while they did do that it didn't provide enough organs to meet demand during the Butlerian Jihad so most of their products were a side of their slaving business.
- Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: Perhaps the most famous example in science fiction. Due to thousands of years of space migration, various religions and cultures have merged, split, then re-merged again and again. The Fremen are Zensunni, a combination of Sunni Islam and Zen Buddhism. Though most of this occurred naturally, it eventually was pushed this way by an ecumenical council that produced the "Orange Catholic Bible". The title suggests a reunification of Catholicism and Protestantism (the militant, anti-Catholic Protestant Irish Orangists), although it is actually far more ecumenical, incorporating "Maometh Saari, Mahayana Christianity, Zensunni Catholicism and Buddislamic traditions".
- A few religions manage to survive intact through the millennia, most notably Judaism.
- There are also Zenshiites in the prequels, a more violent sect than the Zensunnis.
- Also, while the Corrino Imperium appear to have tolerated many religions (after all, what were a bunch of non-violent monks on Lankiveil going to do?), Paul's fanatic followers demand that everyone worship Muad'Dib or die. When the Lankiveilian Zensunni monks refuse to build a giant statue of Muad'Dib, Paul orders them slaughtered and their temple burned to the ground.
- The novel Sisterhood of Dune reveals that the creation of the Orange Catholic Bible was hardly easy. The ecumenical council did not have the blessing of the Imperium and was just a bunch of scholars who thought they could logically compel fanatics into accepting a unified faith. The millions of people killed shortly after the publishing of the book prove them wrong. The members of the council are almost universally shunned and hunted by the Butlerian fanatics. While Emperor Julius Corrino initially offers them sanctuary in his palace on Salusa Secundus, when the leader of the council is caught sleeping with the Empress, the entire council is publicly executed.
- Colour Coded Characters: The novels have the Harkonnens in blue, the Atreides in green (presumably referencing Islam), Reverend Mothers in black aba robes, and Spacing Guild representatives in grey, denoting their neutral status.
- Combat Clairvoyance: The Kwisatz Haderach has the ability to (among other things) see into the future. Mentats can also see the future by way of "projecting" the possible outcomes of a given choice, but their role is not usually that of a military strategist.
- After his transformation under the T-probe in Heretics, Miles Teg has this ability cranked Up to Eleven, to the point where he can see the positions of the normally undetectable no-ships.
- Compelling Voice: The Bene Gesserit have the Voice. Jessica uses this in the first novel to facilitate the escape of her and Paul, by making the guards kill each other. The fear of this prompts various defenses, including stationing deaf-mutes as guards for important people and, later, conditioning people to reflexively kill at the first sign of Voice being used. In the original novel, the Bene Gesserit have to study the target of the Voice in order to adjust their pitch accordingly.
- The Commies Made Me Do It: Dr. Yueh's rationale for betraying the Atreides.
- Con Lang: Many of the phrases and terms used throughout the book have some basis in real-world languages. The Fremen speak a clear development of Arabic. Galach, the official language of the Imperium, is described as an Anglo-Slavic hybrid with some other tongues mixed in for good measure — and it shows... in the rare instances when we get to read some actual untranslated phrases from it.
- Contrived Coincidence: Gurney Halleck, the one member of Leto's men who's still alive and on the planet, just so happens to be aboard the smuggling ship that falls for Paul's false spice bed trap.
- Convenient Cranny: While Paul and Jessica are fleeing a Sand Worm, they find a crack in a cliff and successfully hide from it.
- Cool, but Inefficient: A lot of the tech, justifying the Feudal Future / Punk Punk feel of The Verse. Much of this is deliberate due to prohibitions against thinking machines and the dominance of shields in warfare.
- Cool Chair: The Emperor's throne is described as "massive chair carved from a single piece of Hagal quartz". In Dune Messiah this is changed to "Hagar emerald" (probably a typo).
- This may be intentional actually. Green is the color of mourning on Arrakis, the color of House Atreides, and also represents the terraform dream of Liet and the Fremen. So by having a new throne carved of emerald Paul is able to represent his powers of life and death with the symbolic throne.
- Crapsack World: Dune is a universe of tyrannical regimes, war and constant backstabbing. And even the most moral factions aren't that moral either — see Black and Gray Morality.
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: Handled in a serious manner when Stilgar the Fremen meets with Duke Leto. He spits on the table. As the Duke's men are about to carve Stilgar into lunchmeat, Duncan Idaho tells them to hold, then thanks Stilgar for "the gift of his moisture", spits on the table himself, and explains that doing so is a Fremen gesture of respect (since water is so scarce on Arrakis).
- Crazy-Prepared: The Bene Gesserit spent generations working their Missionaria Protectiva program on backwater planets with the goal of instilling superstitions into the local populace so that, if everything went south, any stranded member of the Sisterhood could take advantage of those superstitions with signs and prophecies tilted in the favor of the Bene Gesserit. It pays off when Bene Gesserit-trained Paul and Jessica Atreides are forced to flee into the deserts of Arrakis and utilizes Fremen superstition to convince the Fremen to take them under their wing. This turns around to bite the Sisterhood in the ass, however, when Paul totally exploits the Missionaria Protectica and integrates himself into Fremen religion, turning him into a Messianic figure amongst the natives, and uses this as a key point to begin his ascent to Emperorhood.
- Creepy Child: Alia, who scares everyone who doesn't intimately know her.
- Creepy Twins: Leto II and Ghanima, though they come off that way more to the reader who can watch in on their "games."
- Creepy Uncle: The Baron, completely obsessed with his young nephew. Somehow worse that he considers him an adopted son.
- The Creon: The Bene-Geserit play this trope on an organizational scale. They do not believe that assuming direct control of the empire will be beneficial to them, and instead conduct extremely elaborate (millennia-spanning) schemes to remain advisors to the emperor while controlling the empire only from the shadows.
- The Rabbi Did It
- Rated M for Manly
- Razor Floss: Shigawire.
- Really 700 Years Old: Mainly due to the effects of the Spice, many people extend their life far greater than would be possible without. The Emperor Shaddam is described by his daughter Princess Irulan as looking around 50, though being in his late '80s. He dies due to work-related stress rather than old age.
- The Bene Gesserit take this to the extremes. With complete control over their biochemical makeup, they can slow down or speed up the aging process at will or choose to look younger or older while chemically being another age. They rarely take advantage of this, however, because such power can be intoxicating and dangerous. If someone outside the inner-Bene Gesserit organization were to notice the true extent of their powers it could lead to their destruction from superstitious outsiders as well as loss of influence over the Empire. Leto II ends up doing this, living up to 3,500 years before being (willingly) assassinated.
- The pre-Born count in a different way. While chemically and physically true to their age, exposure to the Water of Life in the womb awakens their Genetic Memory. This leads to a personality being composed solely of their complete lineage of ego memories, upwards of hundreds of thousands of generations. Leto II and his sister Ghanima are both nine when they begin wresting control of the empire from their similarly-affected aunt, and must constantly chastise anyone that presumes them to be mere "children." They never had a childhood, nor a life of their own. Only the memories of billions.
- And finally Duncan Idaho. He has clocked up at least 5,000 years through hundreds of ghola-incarnations, although most incarnations only possess the original Duncan's memories, each is blissfully unaware of the many copies that have existed between the original and himself. Then the final Duncan finds a way to awaken the memories of all the ghola-incarnations to create a chain of memory-lifetimes. And having realised that, he uses it on Miles Teg.
- Thanks to the cymeks' life extension treatment, both Vorian Atreides and Gilbertus Albans hardly look a day over 40, even though they're both well over a century old. Vorian, at least, is described to have some grey hair.
- Reality Warper: Norma Cenva, being not only a Navigator but also a powerful Sorceress of Rossak, learns to fold space with pinpoint accuracy without a Holtzman engine. She uses her powers to basically become God, and eventually kills Omnius with them.
- Really Gets Around: Arguably subverted by the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres, whom really do have many sex partners, but only because the Bene Gesserit are engaged in a subtle breeding program and the Honored Matres use their sexuality as a form of conditioning. Both only do it professionally.
- Duncan Idaho more so. See The Casanova above.
- Vorian Atreides in the prequels. Of course, living for centuries gets lonely. After his first wife's (natural) death, he goes to track down any other descendants he may have from many encounters over the decades. Apparently, he has never heard of contraceptives or just doesn't care. Later on, he re-marries and has another family. After his second wife's death (not natural), he is once again free to do whatever (and whomever) he wants.
- Red Scare: The Harkonnens are apparently of Russian descent. Now remember that the books came out during the Cold War.
- Regent for Life: Alia in Children of Dune (she didn't start out that way, but shit happened).
- Required Secondary Powers: Heretics of Dune sees Miles Teg gain Super Speed, but needs to become a Big Eater to compensate (Several characters lampshade his Big Eating). He also gets his hands badly bruised and torn from hitting his enemies at such speeds.
- Reinforce Field: The bones of a sandworm are extremely brittle. However, their crystalline structure can be made as tough as diamond with a weak bioelectric field, such as one produced by a living creature, including the sandworm itself. When a sandworm is killed, its skeletal structure collapses and rapidly erodes. The same is true for crysknives, weapons made out of sandworm's teeth.
- Retcon: In the first novel, the Reverend Mother power of "other memory" was bestowed by a kind of "download" of all the memories of another Reverend Mother — only that Reverend Mother's memories, or the memories of previous Reverend Mothers she'd downloaded, were accessible. By the time of Children of Dune, "other memory" was a genetic phenomenon that allowed its possessor access to the memories of anybody in his or her past, male or female.
- Some difference was made between "Ancestral Memory" and "Other Memory". AM is awakened genetic memory, while OM is transferred genetic memory. The later books use OM as a catch-all for both.
- Other changes that might be considered a Retcon within the first 3 books included the appearance of Guild Navigators (at the end of Dune, they were perfectly normal-looking humans except for the blue-within-blue eyes that they hid behind contact lenses), and the factors that make a child "pre-born" ("No no no, Alia wasn't pre-born because she downloaded the dying Reverend Mother's memories while she was still in the womb, she was pre-born because her mom was addicted to the Spice!")
- The Butlerian Jihad. Originally, a reference to Samuel Butler and his Darwin among the Machines. Retconned — possibly unintentionally — by Brian Herbert to refer to the death of one "Manion Butler" instead.
- Retro Upgrade: Both laser weapons and shielding technology have been well developed, but due to the Technobabble behind them if one meets the other then a catastrophic explosion occurs. Most warfare is waged through unconventional projectile weapons — or through simple knife and swordplay.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Dr. Wellington Yueh betrays the House Atreides for the sake of freeing his wife from Harkonnen tortures. Yueh is an interesting case in that he walks into it with his eyes mostly open — he strongly suspects that Wanna has been Released to Elsewhere and is betraying everyone just to make sure. He knows he'll only be killed for his troubles once he's outlived his usefulness, and he does everything in his power to help House Atreides survive his betrayal. Hell, he even sets up a trap of his own to kill Baron Harkonnen in retaliation, and it almost succeeds.
"You think... you have defeated me? You think I did not know... what I bought... for my Wanna?"
- Poor old Wellington kinda gets the short end of the stick in the universe; despite his best-of-intentions betrayal, in subsequent books it is made clear that history remembers him as worse than Judas and for thousands of years his name serves as a byword for unconscionable treachery.
- And then he tries to right his wrongs in the sequels, to disastrous results (he does finally get it right at the end, however, to the point where the reborn Atreides have forgiven him).
- Ridiculously Human Robot: Erasmus from the Legends of Dune trilogy (for those that admit he exists). He wasn't designed to be intelligent (although does look at least vaguely like a human — two arms, two legs etc) but ends up being far more so than any other robot, and this feat can't be replicated.
- He's also, somehow, a transexual that crossdresses and is implied to have homosexual encounters.
- Rite of Passage: The gom jabbar stands out, though is only done on Bene Gesserit and Kwisatz Haderach-hopefuls. Better examples exist among the Fremen, such as first hooking a sandworm (at twelve).
- Robot War: The "Butlerian Jihad," which is referenced in the very first book but wasn't fleshed out in any detail, certainly not by the prequels. Led to a core tenet of civilization: "thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man's mind"— by which we mean, No Computers Allowed. Various schools of mental training, such as the Mentats and the Bene Gesserit, were founded to produce humans who can do what Pentiums did (and eventually went far beyond that).
- Of course it's never made clear (in the original series, which predates widespread computer use in Real Life anyway) how advanced the computer has to be before it's forbidden, nor really what precisely it is that Mentats do most of the time.
- Rock Beats Laser: This is an example when the trope is totally justified. Because of shields, the Sardaukar use knives and swords. The Fremen use knives because that's what they have. When the Sardaukar come to Arrakis, they have to turn their shields off. So it's not rocks beating lasers, but more along the lines of your lasers have stopped working, and the locals are better at using rocks than you are.
- Royal Blood: Thanks to eugenics.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: The royalty/nobility in Dune basically do nothing but scheme against one another and actually ruling their domains. Court functions and leisure occasions seem to only serve the purpose of furthering their schemes for power.
- Averted at least by Leto I Atreides, who was an active governor of Arrakis and sought to bring reform to the everyday masses in the wake of the corrupt Harkkonnen administration. Also averted by Feyd Rautha, who was sent to deliberately be a despot and oppress the people of Arrakis, so that they would "welcome" their liberator, the Baron.
- Sacred Scripture: The "Orange Catholic Bible".
- Sand Is Water:
- The sandworms "swim" through sand by literally eating it and passing it through their system, avoiding most of the implausibilities of it. This generates intense heat that triggers some extremely powerful electromagnetic storms from all the friction.
- Played even straighter with tidal dust basins, basins of dust so deep they have tides, which an unwary traveler can wander into and die.
- Sand Worm: Possibly the Trope Maker.
- Schizo Tech: Many of the apparently anachronistic elements of technology are justified by the book's extremely-detailed backstory.
- School of Seduction: Although it's not the entire curriculum, it features in Bene Gesserit training. The Honored Matres later on are this full-throttle.
- Science Is Bad: This is the view of the Butlerians, whose goal is to force humanity to go back to manual labor and destroy any advanced technology. While they claim to only be following the tenets established during the Butlerian Jihad (i.e. no computers), they actually destroy any technology they feel is wrong and will burn down a medical school because they believe that if you're sick, then it's God's will that you die. Even though the leader of the movement would have died without advanced medical care when his legs were blown off. The Butlerians also have no qualms about using starships to achieve their goals, even though they admit it's a necessary evil.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, timewise: Justified, as there is Genetic Memory that allows the denizens of the past to inform the future (not to mention a millennia old absolute despot worshipped as God who intentionally holds things in stasis). Not so much justified in the prequels, where there is no such explanation yet the elements of the later series leap fully formed into existence and apparently remain unchanged for over ten thousand years.
- Screw Destiny: This is the major theme of Children of Dune and God-Emperor of Dune. The main character's goal of the novels is the creation of what he termed, the 'Golden Path' — a future completely free of destiny with unlimited choices. The ironic thing is, to do this, Leto messes with people's futures for the next 3,500 years. This is also a direct subversion of the original novel, where one of the main themes were "you can't fight fate."
- Paul tries oh so hard to be able to screw destiny, and basically falls into a Despair Event Horizon when he fails. His biggest reasons for trying are the jihad made in his name when he ascends to the throne of Emperor (with BILLIONS of people killed in his name) and the prophecies of the Bene Gesserit that predict that Duke Leto would be completely forgotten by history.
- Scry vs. Scry: A few times in Dune. Bonus points for the foresight itself being a trap; seeing a future locks it in among all the possible futures, so it's avoidable unless you know it's coming.
- Or rather, past events have set up a collision of mutually exclusive forces, and the only place free will has in all that is in how these predestined events will be handled. Paul always refers to the Jihad as necessary, but he usually follows that up by saying that he at least chose the way with less killing.
- An important point of the early novels is that those that see the future can't see each other, or those directly involved with them. Much of the second novel involves a conspiracy that is kept from Paul by a Guild Navigator's own scrying. However, Leto II's foresight is so ungodly powerful that it doesn't have this problem... which is part of why he works to create things that CAN overcome his vision (and he'll only know he's done it when it kills him).
- Second-Hand Storytelling: Interesting scenes or important plot points, such as the initial journey to the planet Arrakis in a spaceship of the mysterious Navigators Guild or Paul Atreides drinking the lethal Water of Life, are either touched on only fleetingly or narrated by characters in retrospect, several weeks later. The chapter simply ends and cuts away from the action about to unfold to a different scene in the next chapter, with characters sitting around their camp fire and telling each other what happened.
- Seize Them!: Children of Dune. When Leto knocks the door to Alia's room off its hinges and enters her presence along with his sister Ghanima, Alia shouts at her guards to "Seize them!" Leto picks up the 1,000 lb. door he just came through and throws it at the guards.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Dune takes this trope quite literally. "True" prophets (Paul Atreides and his descendants) don't predict the future so much as create it, locking themselves (and everyone else) into an inescapable destiny. It takes Leto II almost four thousand years to break humanity free from the consequences of this.
- Send in the Clones: Duncan Idaho dies in the first novel, only to return over and over again first as a ghola, then as a ghola-clone. God-Emperor of Dune even has several Duncan gholas throughout the story, though all but one were played with through flashbacks and mentions.
- Setting Update: Dune is Lawrence of Arabia IN SPACE! WITH PSYCHOTROPIC DRUGS!
- Sexless Marriage: Much to Irulan's consternation, her marriage to Paul turns out to be this; he considers Chani to be his real wife, in everything but name.
- The Shill: Kevin J. Anderson does this, and quite publicly. His site, aptly named the "KJA Special Forces", asks members to post blogs, links, discussions, and reviews on online stores such as Amazon in support of both him and his work. Doing so can land you "points", and in exchange for those points you can "earn" prizes and money. Enough points can even earn you a Shout-Out in a future Dune book.
- A "cone of silence" shields Count Fenring's conversation with Baron Harkonnen. A reference to a 1960 British film, Cone of Silence.
- There's a Rush shout-out in "Hunters of Dune" with a familiar named philosopher paraphrasing the lyrics to "Freewill" (pg. 427). Not so surprising, considering Anderson is a big fan of the band and has actually worked with drum god/lyricist Neil Peart before on a short story.
- There are at least two to Poul Anderson: an appendix to Dune mentions a biography of Alia written by "Pander Oulson"; and in God Emperor of Dune, Leto II asks Hwi Noree if she's familiar with the philosophy of Noah Arkwright* Arkwright is a philosopher/explorer mentioned (but apparently never actually appearing) in several of Anderson's stories.
- There's a reference to author Jack Vance (full name John Holbrook Vance) in Dune. In the "Terminology of the Imperium" entry for Krimskell Fiber the author of "The Strangler Vines of Ecaz" is given as "Holjance Vohnbrook".
- Shown Their Work:
- With regards to the ecology of Dune, as well as the Arabic-based Fremen language, which are the two most well-researched aspects of the entire first book and possibly series. The later history and philosophy, both real and imagined, are near-equally amazing. It's also one of the few series that does not completely screw up Judaism.
- When Jessica consumes the psychotropic Water of Life, she identifies it as a tryptamine compound. Tryptamines are a family of chemicals that include hallucinogens such as DMT, psilocin, and bufotenin, so Herbert did his research on mind-altering drugs.
- Significant Monogram: The Emperor's personal guard of fanatically-loyal elite soldiers are trained and raised on a planet called Salusa Secundus. Godwin's Law, anyone?
- Silent Scapegoat: Leto II. Even the Bene Gesserit, thousands of years after Leto sacrifices himself, don't realize what it was he was trying to accomplish.
- Single-Biome Planet: Justified, as Dune became a desert planet thanks to the sandworms/sandtrout species basically terraforming it.
- Since Arrakis is a desert planet arenaforming might be a more appropriate term.
- Solid Gold Poop: Spice is formed via the excretions of the sand trout mixed with water.
- Sonic Stunner
- Space Age Stasis: Society is partially stagnant due to the religious proscriptions against thinking machines, robotics, and computers set up after the Butlerian Jihad, which keeps things from advancing too much. Spice does this as well, since its properties allow for expanded lifetimes and space folding, so there was no desire to experiment and find alternatives. Finally, the Bene Gesserit and Guild collaborated to set up a feudalistic government with full knowledge that it would be easier to control.
- Space Is Cold: After Josef Venport spaces Arjen Gates, the latter is told to freeze almost instantly instead of turning into a bloody mess from Explosive Decompression. Just to hammer the point home, the authors further state that the corpse is "petrified". Obviously, they don't understand the difference between turning to stone over millennia and simply freezing. Furthermore, the body stays frozen at room temperature when recovered.
- Space Jews — Literally, as of Chapterhouse. As much as the other major religions have shifted in 20,000 years, there are still people who observe Passover, speak ritual Hebrew, and have a conception of a nation of Israel. They managed to survive by first going into hiding, then pretending to be revivalists.
- Space Opera: Exactly.
- The Spartan Way/Training from Hell: The Emperor's Sardaukar. To a certain extent the Fremen also — their culture is more survivalist than purely martial, but on a man-for-man level it seems to yield a superior result.
- Spear Counterpart: The all-male Tleilaxu are eventually revealed to be this to the all-female Bene Gesserit (they also call themselves the Bene Tleilax).
- Speculative Fiction
- Spice of Life: The Spice itself, which is the most valued commodity in the entire universe. To a lesser extent, water on Arrakis (the planet where spice is harvested). Frank wrote both as a metaphor for water itself and oil.
- Spiritual Successor: Dune shares various concepts and themes with Frank Herbert's novel The Godmakers. Published as a separate novel in 1970, the four original short stories were all published before Dune was even written. Includes Axlotl-tanks, Plaz, and even what could be considered a young version of the Bene Gesserit.
- Split Personality Takeover:
- Alia gets taken over by the memory-construct of her dead grandfather Baron Harkonnen. It doesn't end well.
- Advanced Face Dancers at the time of Heretics of Dune make a memory-print of their victim's mind and therefore mimic them perfectly. Too perfectly, as it turns out. Leave one in the job long enough and he forgets he's a Face Dancer.
- The Spock: Mentats. Although not all of them are by any means moral and logical.
- Stalker with a Test Tube: This is basically the Modus Operandi of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood — breeding together people with the right genes in order to produce the Kwizatch Haderach... whether that means matchmaking, blackmail, or outright rape is of little concern to them as long as the right children result.
- Standard Time Units: Years are known as "Standard years", or SY, and are described as being about 20 hours less than the "so-called primitive year".
- Standard Sci-Fi History: The background history of the Imperium tends to follow this trend. The Buterlian Jihad serves the role of World War III by resetting the political and technological situation. The Corrino-led Imperium serves as the First Empire, and the Paul/Leto II regimes as the Second Empire. It's one of the few examples in which the Second Empire follows up the first without an Interregnum. There is an Interregnum (referred to as "The Scattering"), but it occurs only after the collapse of the Second Empire.
- Starfish Aliens: The sandworms, which are gigantic (as in up-to-half-kilometer-long) wormlike creatures that live in the desert. They also have a larval form, which begin as microbial "sand plankton" that serve as food to the adults, and grow into a small roughly diamond-shaped form called sandtrout AKA "Little Makers". The sandtrout are later revealed to seal away all the water on the planet, which is highly toxic to the adult form, and secrete the precursors to the addictive and Psychic Powers-granting Spice, which triggers their transformation into the sandworm "Makers".
- They also inhale carbon dioxide and breathe out fresh oxygen, working as a substitute for the nearly non-existant plantlife on Arrakis. This also justifies why such a Single-Biome Planet can have a breathable atmosphere. The byproducts of the worms are suspiciously Terran-friendly indeed. Various characters lampshade this occasionally, even suggesting the idea that sandworms may be in fact Lost Organic Technology for terraforming planets (created a long time ago by humans, presumably).
- The Starscream: Logno. Not that it does her much good, because Murbella kills her a few pages later.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Chani. Though she dies relatively late in Dune Messiah.
- Super-Detailed Fight Narration
- Super Soldiers:
- The Sardaukar, the original Fremen when organized, the Fish Speakers
- Leto II's Fish Speakers, an Amazon Brigade, become more feared than the Sardaukar.
- Super Speed: In Heretics of Dune, Miles Teg gets this power as a result of a botched interrogation — implied to be a result of the unique mechanics of the interrogation device unlocking a latent genetic talent. His speed also includes accelerated reflexes, slowed time perception, a form of Super Senses (explained as an amplification of his Mentat training), and massive boosts to his metabolic rate and the oxygen storage capacity of his blood to handle the increased energy demands. The effect also turns him into a Big Eater, which is played for both drama and laughs. Fortunately, he can turn the ability on or off at will.
- Survival Mantra: See the page quote.
- Sword Fight: Swords and knives are the main weapons used in ground combat. Justified: shields stop projectile weapons, and explode like nukes when attacked with lasguns.
- This is inverted during and after Leto II's reign, as he bans shields within the Empire in order to force warfare to start evolving again. By the time of Heretics, ground and space combat are much, much deadlier as lasguns and even nastier weapons are in full use.
- Also inverted in Dune — shields attract the worms so they can't really be used (at least by ground forces) and Baron Harkonnen successfully uses conventional artillery in his takeover to seal Atreides forces in caves to die. (The Fremen turn this to their own advantage later.)
- Take Over The Universe. This is what the hero does. By threatening to destroy civilization, no less. Of course, the alternative is far, far worse.
- Take That with this passage:
As far back as the Old Empire there had been a pejorative label for the small rich and Families Minor arising from the knowledge of a rare wood's value. 'He's a three P-O
,' they said, meaning that such a person surrounded himself with cheap copies made from declasse substances.
- Taking You with Me: Duke Leto tries to kill both himself and Baron Harkonnen with a poison gas-filled tooth. The Baron, however, managed to survive; not only did he have his shield turned on, he was standing right in front of a convenient emergency door. Leto at least took down the Baron's Mentat and several others.
- Talking through Technique: The Hand Signals. Count Fenring's annoying vocal tics might also qualify, as we later learn that they're a secret language understood only by the Count and his (Bene Gesserit) wife.
- Talking Your Way Out: Thufir Hawat, captured by Baron Vladimir Harkonnen's forces and forced to work for him, plays him off of his nephew, Feyd Rautha. Feyd makes a rash attempt (suggested by Thufir) to assassinate his uncle, and the Baron is forced to consider executing his only legitimate heir. Thufir does this more for vengeance and loyalty to his prior liege than for escape, which the Baron ensured would be a fatal endeavor; the Baron barely manages to work his way out of the dilemma by denying Feyd the governorship of the planet the Harkonnens took from Thufir's old master. Earlier in the book, Paul and Jessica use the Voice to get their Harkonnen guards to kill each other.
- Tangled Family Tree: Courtesy largely of the Bene Gesserit breeding program. The Lady Jessica is herself Vladimir Harkonnen's flesh-and-blood daughter, and Paul is by extension his grandson. As part of Leto II's 3,500-year breeding program, a Duncan Idaho ghola was introduced every few generations for the "wild" genes of the distant past.
- Ten Little Murder Victims: Suspicion briefly falls on Jessica as being a mole for the Harkonnens, though the Duke angrily discards such accusations.
- Ten Thousand Years: The original novel takes place in the year 10,191 AG, after the Spacing Guild was founded and the Imperium established.
- Terraform/Weather Control Machine: The sandworms managed to turn the once-lush and verdant Arrakis into a desert-world. Paul promises to transform Arrakis into a paradise through use of weather satellites, and makes good with signs of life and vegetation taking hold of the planet at an exponential rate. Unfortunately, his son Leto II realizes this is taking place much too quickly and will destabilize the universe's political and social infrastructure if the sandworms die out, so destroys the canals. He takes control of the program himself and over the next 3,500 years transforms Arrakis more steadily, only to return it to a desert world once again on his death.
- Theme Naming: (Nearly) all the Bene Gesserit have names of the form Something-us (Female Name) (Surname), which is slightly odd considering -us is a male suffix.
- They Were Holding You Back: What's done to Thufir Hawat.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Josef Venport to Arjen Gates.
- Time Skip: 3,500 years between Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune, and 1,500 years between God Emperor of Dune and Heretics of Dune.
- Too Dumb to Live: The head of the ecumenical council is taken in by Emperor Julius Corrino after the release of the Orange Catholic Bible causes mass rioting and hunting of said council. Then the Emperor's daughter catches the guy violating the Empress in the palace gardens. As a result, the entire council is publicly executed by the Emperor. Somehow, the guy himself manages to slip away in the confusion, although it's hinted that it was actually consentual, and that the Empress (whom the Emperor never invited to his bedchamber) helped him escape.
- Too Kinky to Torture: In the sequels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson, a group are trying to reawaken the memories of a ghola of the Baron Harkonnen, which is usually accomplished by pushing someone to breaking point with some great trauma. However, he proves Too Kinky to Torture and the only thing that eventually works is sensory deprivation.
- Totally Radical: In the Dune prequels there are things called 'Cymeks,' apearently trying to combine 'cyborg' and 'mech' with a Xtremely Kool Letter. Cybernetic and mechanical.
- To the Pain: Feyd-Rautha
- To Win Without Fighting: In the Back Story of Heretics, Miles Teg was a famous Bene Gesserit military commander.
Teg's reputation was an almost universal thing throughout human society of this age. At the Battle of Markon, it had been enough for the enemy to know that Teg was there opposite them in person. They sued for terms.
- Tranquillizer Dart: This comes up when Leto finds the Shadout Mapes dying on the floor in the palace and Doctor Yueh shoots him with a dart (at the start of the Harkonnens' raid on Arrakis). Yueh is the family physician, so he knows the duke's body mass, metabolism, and so on. Some reference to the drugging of Jessica and Paul is also made; the Baron stands over Jessica as she comes to and tells her, "The drug was timed." This admission tells her the traitor has detailed and intimate knowledge of her vital statistics, and she deduces his identity seconds later.
- Trap Is the Only Option: Leto explains to his son that their being given Arrakis is a trap by the Emperor, including the classic line, "Knowing there is a trap is the first step in evading it." Where he fails is in anticipating the magnitude of the forces poised to destroy him (and he isn't the only one).
- Trilogy Creep: An interesting example. Dune was actually conceived as one long book, with the sequels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune fitting directly after the first. Messiah was fleshed out while writing Dune and eventually became its own novel, which due to its expansion then warranted Children to be expanded as well and also became its own book. God Emperor of Dune and the last two in the series, Heretics and Chapterhouse are genuine examples of a trilogy creep, though the fact that the story is now over 10,000 years past in the originals, it's fair to say that they're a trilogy of their own.
- Truth Serum: Verite, a will-destroying narcotic from the planet Ecaz that renders a person incapable of falsehood.
- Turned Against Their Masters: The Advanced Face Dancers against the Lost Tleilaxu, and then the Old Empire Tleilaxu in Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune.
- Two Beings, One Body: Leto II's merge with the sandtrout/sandworms.
- Two-Part Trilogy: Dune was originally conceived as one large masterwork, with the two sequels of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune entwined into the story. Considering the original is 412 pages, the second 222, and the third 592, they were obviously split. This creates an interesting case of the first book being easily stand-alone, while the two sequels are more closely connected but can still in a way also be stand-alone. They also allowed for God-Emperor of Dune, basically a midquel that set up the last two books in the series to be written. It's just kinda hard to say where Two-Part Trilogy begins and Trilogy Creep ends, or even what was intended to be a simple, honest trilogy.
- Übermensch: Paul-Muad'Dib. "I am the Kwisatz Haderach. That is reason enough." His son takes it up a few thousand notches.
- Underdogs Never Lose: House Atreides and the Fremen in the first book.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The first Dune game started as an adventure game, then became a strategy game halfway through.
- Unhappy Medium: Paul Muad'Dib eventually discovers that having prescience is a trap, forcing you into a predetermined path. Thousands of years later, Darwi Odrade is in worse straits, since her knowledge of how dangerous this is predates the beginning of her own recurring prescient dream.
- Unnecessarily Large Interior: Paul's throne room on Arrakis in Dune Messiah is unnecessarily large for the sole purpose of intimidating his visitors.
- Unobtainium: The Spice.
- Unreliable Narrator: The Dune Encyclopedia is very much an example of this. It is framed as an encyclopedia within the Dune universe, purportedly 5,000 years after the events of the first novel and after the historical record has been greatly altered or lost. Several of the entries either contradict or give a different perspective on the events of the novels. It is up to the reader to determine what account, if any, "really" happened.
- Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Leto II and Ghanima.
- Unusual Euphemism: Dune, at least on one occasion, replaced the f-bomb with "floggin'". Frank was perfectly happy to use other cuss words through the series, but even "flog" isn't used again for the rest of the series.
- "An adult beefswelling" is used as a rather... unfortunate euphemism for "erection" in Children of Dune.
- Unusual User Interface: The heavily-mutated Guild Navigators interfacing with space-time to plot the course the navigating machines will take.
- Up to Eleven: In Dune Messiah, Alia Atreides engages in a sparring match with a mechanical swordsman, which gets faster, and creates more lights (which reflect off its prismatic body to distract its opponent) every time it is struck. Its noted that the greatest swordsmen in the universe can strike it seven times before it becomes too fast to safely continue. Alia manages to strike it eleven times, before Paul stops her by throwing a knife at the off switch, which is on the machine.
- Unwanted False Faith : The misguided Fremen-led state religion and personality cult that forms around Paul. The young Atreides actually does a damned good effort at rejecting and ridiculing it at first, but later accepts it after his spice-induced visions convince him there might be a grain of truth in the myth. All the more tragic when the reader realizes the whole Fremen legend about the Mahdi is just a Bene Gesserit hoax cleverly implanted into actual Fremen mythology. (Of course Paul knows this.)
- Variant Chess: From the Terminology of the Imperium:
"CHEOPS: pyramid chess; nine-level chess with the double object of putting your queen at the apex and the opponent's king in check."
- Apparently it has evolved into an actual variant of chess that is played by some people.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: The universe features wheels-within-wheels plots and dense mythology, although the poetic descriptions can make the book enjoyable even to those who fail to understand it.
- Villain Ball / Contractual Genre Blindness: Done deliberately by the Tleilaxu. They mean to leave exploitable loopholes in their schemes; seeing whether or not their victim can spot it is what makes things fun for them.
- It's not that it makes it fun for the Tleilaxu, it's stated that perfection can only come from God, and therefore a person attempting perfection would be blaspheming, so therefore they deliberately include flaws in everything they create, just to make sure.
- Villain Protagonist:
- The Baron during his POV segments. You so want him dead for his crimes and perversions, but while waiting for his comeuppance, you can't help but admire his brilliant political maneuvering and epic-level Magnificent Bastardy.
- There's also Leto II in God Emperor. Interesting in that he is only evil so that he can preserve humanity. This really comes out when you see how Siona and the novel's main Duncan feel about him, as they are virtually the only people who don't worship or beg of him.
- Villainous Glutton:
- The Baron. A sensation-hedonist, he purposefully eats as much as he can both because he enjoys the taste and sensation of eating and because it amuses him that his grotesquely fat body disgusts others.
- Beast Rabban is portrayed as this to an even greater degree in the 1984 film.
- Vision Quest: Meeting one's spiritual Gom Jabbar is something like this.
- Voice of the Legion: The billions of ego memories within genetic memory-awakened individuals can appear like this, especially to the pre-born.
- Voluntary Shape Shifting: Face Dancers
- War for Fun and Profit: The Atreides and Harkonnen feud erupts into this when Arrakis becomes involved, all over production of the spice. For the Harkonnens, it's just as fun as it is profitable.
- Warfare Regression: Thanks to the Holtzman fields, warfare is limited to melee combat. Fast moving bullets and artillery shells are blocked by such shields. Of course, one could wish to shoot the shield with a laser weapon, if they don't mind the resulting nuclear explosion that destroys them.
- Then reverts back when Leto II bans shields.
- Warrior Poet: Gurney Halleck. He is a musician and philosopher with seemingly infinite supply of witticisms for any occasion. He is also a remorseless killer, perfectly willing to cut any Harkonnen he comes across (or anyone who gets on the wrong side of Duke Leto for that matter) into pieces.
Duke Leto: "Someday I'll catch that man without a quotation and he'll look undressed."
- Paul becomes something like this, if the many quotes attributed to him in the chapter epigraphs were actually from him. Then again, Gurney trained Paul.
- The War to End All Wars: Children of Dune mentions Kralizec; in the oldest Fremen beliefs it is the Typhoon Struggle, the war at the end of the universe. It actually happens in Sandworms of Dune.
- Weaponized Exhaust: The Emperor is both enraged and terrified when he hears that his Sardaukar only just barely escaped with their lives by doing this against a settlement of women, children, and elderly.
- We Have Reserves: The Butlerian fanatics use no tactics and simply rush into the fray, most wielding nothing more than clubs. If their numbers are high enough, they might win but at great cost. During the space battle between the Butlerian and Venhold forces, Manford Torondo told mentat Gilbertus Albans to assume all his forces (200+ ships with thousands of people) are expendable. This was the only way they manage to win the battle despite numerical superiority.
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Justified in that after the Butlerian Jihad, complex autonomous machines are forbidden for millennia. Even regular old calculators are replaced by (highly-paid) people known as Mentats.
- Their justification for slavery in the prequels is flimsy at best. They primarily enslave Zensunnis and Zenshiites, as they claim their ancestors refused to fight the Thinking Machines.
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?: The Bene Gesserit Question Book in Dune: House Harkonnen:
What is this Love that so many speak of with such apparent familiarity? Do they truly comprehend how unattainable it is? Are there not as many definitions of Love as there are stars in the universe?
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Paul is described as this in the first book, justified due to the intensive training he was given as heir to House Atreides. The pre-born, due to awakened genetic memory in the womb, never develop a personality of their own and are entirely intelligent even before birth.
- Women Are Wiser: Invoked in God Emperor of Dune and then inverted in the later books. The reason the Fish Speakers are an all woman force is because of Leto's assertion that men, conditioned to violence and deprived of an outlet, will turn on their own populace, while women in the same position will turn to maternal instincts. Leto understands this because he has both male and female Genetic Memory. Thousands of years after Leto, the remnants of the Fish Speakers (and their ultimate descendants, the Honored Matres), have degenerated into megalomania and bureaucratic corruption.
- World of Badass: Arrakis' environment forces its populace to become this in order to survive.
- The Worf Effect: In Dune, the Imperial Sardaukar are the most terrifying and deadly warriors in the known universe, and their only real purpose is to establish how much deadlier the Fremen are by getting their asses handed to them at every encounter. When they attack Paul's sietch, they take devastating losses fighting Fremen who are not even warriors.
- World Building: One of the most developed examples, right here with Tolkien. Considered to be the very first science fiction novel of its kind to do this ("six years of research ahead of it", according to a radio interview the author gave shortly before his death.
- World Half Empty: Sure it makes for an interesting setting, but would you really want to live on Arrakis? Hell, would you even want to live in this universe?
- Well, by all accounts, Caladan is nice. So is Tupile, a system in an undisclosed location, maintained by the Spacing Guild for the benefit of any good customers who may need (or want) political asylum.
- Wormsign: The Trope Namer.
- You Are The Translated Foreign Word: Paul becomes the Kwisatz Haderach, a term the Bene Gesserit describe as meaning "Shortening of the Way". This is in fact derived from the Hebrew "k'fitzat haderech", which means the same thing.
- "k'fitzat haderech" translates literally to "shortcut".
- He is also the Mahdi for the Fremen, which is the same word Muslims give their awaited messiah.
- You Can See Me?: The Honored Matres get a nasty surprise when Miles Teg pinpoints and eliminates all their supposedly undetectable no-ships in the final battle.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: Fremen can challenge each other to duels to the death, with the winner being entitled to the loser's water and their wife. This extends to the responsibility for caring for the widow and her children. Also, any Honored Matre who kills the Great Honored Matre becomes Great Honored Matre herself.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen has Yueh's wife kidnapped to coerce him into betraying the house of Atreides, then fulfills his promise to "reunite" the two of them.
- You Shall Not Pass: In the original Dune book, Duncan Idaho sacrifices himself to hold off a flood of Imperial Sardaukar elite troopers, while Paul Atreides makes good his escape. In the sequel, it's revealed that while he did indeed die, the surviving Sardaukar were so impressed with his Implausible Fencing Powers that they preserved his body, later having it resurrected as a "Ghola"... and that, as it turns out, has some extremely far-reaching effects on the Dune universe.
It is later revealed in Children of Dune that during his last stand in Dune Idaho slew nineteen Sardaukar — and at the height of their power and training, a single Sardaukar was reportedly a match for ten ordinary house regulars and even a Bene Gesserit adept.
- You Said You Would Let Them Go: Yueh makes a deal with the Baron for the return of his wife, Wanna, but she was already dead. Luckily, he saw it coming and prepared accordingly. That he largely fails is a stroke of terribly bad luck.