Profiled by Galen Strickland
Posted December 19, 2000
A native of Washington state, Herbert was a reporter and editor on several West Coast newspapers before becoming a full-time writer of SF. He was never a prolific writer of short stories, publishing only about 20 in his entire career. I cannot recall if I ever encountered any of them; there is a collection from DAW Books, The Worlds of Frank Herbert, which I may have read at some time but I do not remember and don't have a copy now. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction states that he never made a significant impact with any work below novel length.
Of course, what was eventually published as the novel Dune (1965) had been previously published as a series of shorter works originally known as "Dune World" and "Prophet of Dune," beginning with the December, 1963 issue of Analog. The first three novels in the Dune series - Dune, Dune Messiah (1969), and Children of Dune (1976) are all that I am sure I've read by Herbert. These were later followed by God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984), and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985), all of which I've had for years, but I'm not sure when, or if, I'll get around to them.
I cannot give a good reason why I never pursued any of his other novels as several of my friends did recommend them. Under Pressure (1955) was one of his earlier efforts, and although the Dune saga consumed much of his later career, he also produced several other novels which are highly rated by some; The Green Brain (1966), Destination Void (1966), The Eyes of Heisenberg (1966), The Santaroga Barrier (1968), Whipping Star (1970), and The Dosadi Experiment (1977), among others. I welcome anyone else's comments on these works.
Dune itself is considered by many, myself included, as one of the true landmarks of SF, which has probably sold more copies than any other book in genre history. Taken as a whole, the Dune saga definitely is the most widely read SF sequence ever. I feel it is one of the best examples of a fully realized fabricated world as you are ever likely to find. In a poll conducted by Random House's Modern Library division sometime in the '90s, Dune ranked #14 of the top 100 English-language novels of the 20th Century. It has been criticized by some as dense and confusing, but in truth I would say it is definitely complex but should not be confusing to any who have much experience with other imaginative works, as well as of history. The political, philosophical, and psychological elements of these works are significant. I've recently re-read the original novel, for the third or fourth time, and have reviewed it, and hopefully will be able to follow up with the sequels soon.
"Much of FH's work makes difficult reading. His ideas were
genuinely developed concepts, not merely decorative notions,
but they were sometimes embodied in excessively complicated
plots and articulated in prose which did not always match the
level of thinking...His best novels, however, were the work of
a speculative intellect with few rivals in modern sf."
[Malcolm Edwards, in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction]
My review of the novel Dune
Reviews of the filmed versions of Dune:
David Lynch's 1984 theatrical Movie
The SciFi Channel's 2000 miniseries "Frank Herbert's Dune"
Herbert's bibliography at fantasticfiction.com
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