"To attempt an understanding of Muad'Dib without understanding his mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, is to attempt seeing Truth without knowing Falsehood. It is the attempt to see the Light without knowing Darkness. It cannot be." --from "Manual of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan

Since its original publishing in 1965, the novel Dune has been widely hailed as the greatest science-fiction work to date. Add one more to the list of believers, because I, too feel that Frank Herbert's masterpiece is perhaps some of the most well-written and complete books of all time.
Imagine this: It is the year 23,190 AD. Our history has all but vanished. Our cultures and religions are scattered throughout the galaxy. All computers have been destroyed.And in charge of the known universe are three noble houses -- the almighty imperial house Corrino, and the smaller houses of Atreids and Harkonnen.

This is the setting of Dune a novel filled to the brim with majesty and wonder, excitement and polital drama. On this page I will give a brief plot synopsis along with a few brief notes about the book in general. If any words are italisized, see the bottom of the page for definitions.

Recent paperback edition cover
Recent paperback edition cover
Brief Plot Summery
The main conflict in Dune is the political struggle between the three houses of Corrino, Atreids, and Harkonnen. The Emporer of House Corrino, Shaddam IV, has reached the point of fearing House Atreids and its popular leader, Duke Leto Atreids. This great popularity, however threatening to Shaddam's reign, is nothing compred to the military force that Leto has built. Despite its small size, the sheer talent of the Atreids soldiers could soon overtake the Emporer without help.

Shaddam soon comes to the realization that House Atreids must be eliminated before they become too powerful, but cannot outright attack without starting an all-out galactic war of the houses. Instead, Shaddam turns to House Harkonnen and its power-hungry commander Baron Vladmir Harkonnen, whose house has feuded with Atreids for centuries.

Duke Leto is soon forced to give up his world of Caladan to move to the planet Arrakis, also known as "Dune" for its landscape -- vast, endless deserts. Arrakis is the only place known to the houses where spice melange is found. Sice is a resource required for the increase of awareness and lifespan of those who use it. It is needed for interstellar travel and is also used by the mysterious Bene Gesserit, a secretive group of women with plans completely separate from those of the houses.

But this already complicated political matter gets even deeper as Paul Atreids, son of the Duke Leto, and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, nephew of the Baron Vladmir, are essential to the Bene Gesserit's age-old breeding plans to create the so-called Kwisatz Haderach, a virtual superhuman that is basically a male Bene Gesserit. Paul was, according to the Sisterhood, supposed to be a girl, and would have then mated with Feyd-Rautha to give birth to the Kwistaz Haderach.

On planet Arrakis, Duke Leto forsees the trap from set by the Harkonnens, but cannot halt their devastating attack with his soldiers tired from the transition and the Harkonnen military secretly bolstered by disguised Corrino comandos. Even more painful was the fact that there was a traitor from within House Atreids -- the Suk Doctor Yueh. Captured and beaten, Leto dies in a failed assassination attempt on Vladmir, thwarted by the evil Mentat Piter.

Paul and his mother, Lady Jessicca of the Bene Gesserit, escape into the vast, merciless deserts of Arrakis in hopes of living with the Fremen, a group of fearless, tribal warrior-people who ride the immense sand worms into battle. In time, Paul learns to be a Fremen and becomes a religious and militaristic leader known as Muad'Dib. It is also finally proven that Paul is, indeed, the Kwisatz Haderach that the Bene Gesserit were hoping for, only appearing one generation early for some unexplainable reason.
Sheeana stands before the mighty sandworm, from the cover of Heretics of Dune.
Sheeana stands before the mighty sandworm, from the cover of Heretics of Dune.

A sand worm being summoned by a Fremen rider

The plot above is only the first book of the three this novel is divided into. I could have gone on even further, but I figure you really don't want me to give away the rest of the story. It only gets better from where I ended, so if you thought that sounded interesting, you're in for some amazing plot twists and action-packed battles in the second and third "books."
Recommendations
Without a doubt, any science fiction or fantasy fan should read this book immediately if they already haven't. The only place this book may disappoint the reader is that it has to end! Thankfully, there are well over a dozen sequels, prequels, and extensions of the story to entertain you after you finish reading this lengthy novel.

A word of caution, however. This is an extremely difficult book to pick up and read. From page one, it sends tons of strange terms and cultural references from the worlds that the book takes place in. If you are to purchase a copy of Dune, I strongly reccommend you buy the version with the cover towards the top of the page. It contains a well-written glossary in the back to help you understand the various technologies and political phrases. If you are not willing to put some time into looking up the definitions, this is not a book for you.

Even beyond that obstacle is the huge amount of characters and places that you will be forced to keep track of. It's a mighty difficult task, but that is the reason why this is a great example of a book for the college-bound.

Definitions
Mentat: a person trained from birth to be capable of extreme calculations and great feats of logic. Essentially a human super-computer (remember that computers have all been destroyed)
Suk Doctor: A doctor trained by the Imperial School and are considered the most brilliant students of medicine. It was thought that, because of their healing talents, they could not do anything to cause the harm of others. (this is proved false after Yueh betrays the Atreids)