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Frank Herbert

Profiled by Galen Strickland

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 these; 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), Children of Dune (1976) are all that I am sure that I read by Herbert. These were later followed by God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984), and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985).

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. With the possible exception of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, it may have 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 won't go into any detail about this work at this time, for either you have read it and are as familiar with its characters and themes as I am, or else you haven't and nothing I could say is going to do it justice. I may return to this at another time and attempt a true critical review of at least the original novel. I do feel it is one of the best examples of a totally unique and fully realized fabricated world as you are ever likely to find. In a recent online poll conducted by Random House's Modern Library division, Dune ranked #14 of the top 100 English-language novels of the 20th Century, coming in just ahead of Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. 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. Herbert could never be described as a prose stylist, but the political, philosophical, and psychological elements of these works are significant.

 

"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]

 

Related Links:
My 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.co.uk
Wikipedia

 

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Born
October 8, 1920
Tacoma, Washington

Died
February 11, 1986

No Official Website
but there is one for Dune

Awards
1 Hugo
1 Nebula
SF Hall of Fame (2006)