Book notes: Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune by Frank Herbert book summary review and key ideas.

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Dune by Frank Herbert


“Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family – and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream. 

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.” -Audible

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Opening thoughts:

This book is recommended by Tim Ferriss as one of his all-time favorites. Even though it’s a long book, I’m sure it’ll be worth the listen.

Key notes:

Book One: Dune 

Chapter 1

  • Paul had to face a test of putting his hand in a box that caused pain but he passed

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

  • The boy started to go undergo training
  • The Reverend Mother said the world is supported by four things:
    1. The learning of the wise
    2. The justice of the great
    3. The prayers of the righteous
    4. The valor of the great
      • But all of these are nothing without a ruler who knows the art of ruling

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

  • They couldn’t figure out the reason why the water supply of the planet shut off 
  • Motivating people, forcing them to your will, gives you a cynical attitude towards humanity
    • It degrades everything it touches
    • If you make someone do what you want them to do, then it would not be their doing

Chapter 9

  • Paul managed to avoid an assassination attempt by some small killing device

Chapter 10

  • Paul and his mother wondered about the message they received about a traitor in their group

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

  • Hawat gave the Duke information they retrieved that points to Jessica being a traitor, but he refused to believe it and suspect her

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

  • Paul and duke were fitted with special suits to retain moisture for the journey 
  • The Duke helped save a bunch of men from a worm attack
  • The Duke commands frenetic loyalty because he values the lives of his men over money and the lost spices

Chapter 16

  • The duke left the dinner party to settle the matter, while Jessica and Paul held down the fort with their dinner guests

Chapter 17

  • Jessica discovered she was under suspicion of being a traitor and confronted Hawat
    • She then shocked him by showing him her power to control him with her mind

Chapter 18

  • The Duke discovered doctor Yueh as the traitor, who drugged him and said he would use him as a tool to kill the Baron

Chapter 19

  • Jessica woke up gagged and tied in the room on the floor
    • She reasoned at the trailer must be their doctor
  • Paul and Jessica were taken by their captors to the dessert to be left there
  • Paul and his mother managed to escape from their two captors but had to deal with more people on my way

Chapter 20

  • The doctor Yueh seemed to have made plans to save Jessica and Paul

Chapter 21

  • After the Duke was brought to the Baron, the Duke bit the poison capsule and exhaled it towards the Baron

Chapter 22

  • Paul and Jessica, having survived and been picked up by Idaho, planned out their next step
  • Paul reached a new level of awareness and saw all of the possibilities in a heartbeat
  • His new level of awareness that had awakened allows him to see somewhat into the future

Book Two: Muad’Dib

Chapter 23

  • Paul and his mother began the trek through the desert at night

Reader’s note: Now that Paul is been awakened, he’s a lot more cold and callous than before. I’m actually really annoyed at him because he’s so cold towards his mother and lacks any compassion, warmth, or empathy for her and her situation. I understand that he has to be strong and is growing into a leader, but I would have preferred it if he still had the same compassion as his father had instead of being so methodical and machine-like in his thinking. Hopefully, he develops into a character worth liking.

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

  • Paul and Jessica escapes in the aircraft into the sandstorm away from their pursuers

Chapter 26

  • The Baron charged his nephew with squeezing the population to get his money, and also let him know of his plans to gain power

Chapter 27

  • Paul and his mother continued their trek through the desert and narrowly escaped the landslide of sand

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

  • Paul and Jessica escaped another worm while walking through the sand, but came across some Fremen

Chapter 30

  • The ecologist kinds was captured and left in the desert to die
  • He had hallucinations about his father before the desert exploded beneath him

Chapter 31

  • Jessica and Paul encountered a group of Fremen but bested of them and got the upper hand
    • Jessica demonstrated that she could fight and handle herself by out-maneuvering their leader. She gained his respect by proving her value
    • He promised that if she taught them her technique, she could live with them freely
  • Jessica and the Fremen leader came to an agreement when she proved she was a Bene Gesserit
    • The tribe thought that possibly the two of them were part of the prophecy that the tribe was expecting

Reader’s note: I’m starting to like the story and the character development now. For the first half, his mother seemed unimpressive and I was getting annoyed at the dynamic between Paul and Jessica. Paul was being so domineering and seemingly arrogant, and Jessica kind of played this helpless mom. But in the situation that just happened, Jessica proved that she knew how to deal with people. She used her combat training, logic, and Bene Gesserit skills to resolve their problems and get out of a tricky situation. I like that Paul has become a student again and his mother is still better than him in some of these situations.

Chapter 32

  • A leader is one of the things that distinguishes a mob from a people
    • He maintains the level of individuals
    • Too few individuals and the people revert to a mob
  • Jessica was able to influence the Fremen group by proving she could become their new Reverend Mother

Chapter 33

  • Jamis challenge Paul to a fight, but Paul’s countless hours of training prepared him for it
  • Paul killed Jamis and won the fight. He was named and accepted into the tribe

Chapter 34

  • There was a ritual for Jamis that Paul and Jessica partook in

Chapter 35

  • The Baron’s nephew fought gladiator-style with a slave but managed to win an earned the crowd respect

Chapter 36

  • Paul took on Jamis’ wife Hera and her kids as his own-responsibility

Chapter 37

  • Jessica went through the Reverend Mother trial and passed
    • She gained the collective experience of all the past Reverend Mothers
    • Her unborn daughter also gained all of that experience
  • Paul drank the spice water and started another transcent state where he can see time merged as one
    • Chani also saw it along with their future together

Book Three: The Prophet

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

  • Hawat helped the Baron devise a plan to get his nephew’s replacement to rule over Arrakis

Chapter 40

  • Jessica was upset with Paul for stirring religious fanaticism in there tribe, and didn’t approve of him being together with Chani, but they did have a son together
  • The women in the village were afraid of Paul’s sister because she was so strange due to her circumstances
  • Paul began his right of passage of writing a worm a.k.a. a maker

Chapter 41

  • Harah mentioned she loves Alia like her own and also understands the predicament of Paul having to kill Stilgar and what that means for their tribe

Chapter 42

  • Paul successfully mounted a worm, but was also reprimanded for sloppiness in his technique by Stilgar

Chapter 43

  • Paul reunited with Gurney Halleck
  • Gurney Halleck and Stilgar met each other respectfully
  • Imperial spies within Halleck’s troops were caught
    • Paul decided to not challenge Stilgar, but find a way to around the ritual so that he could be acknowledged as leader without having to kill Stilgar
    • Stilgar also protected Chani during the struggle because he knew Paul would be stronger if she were safe

Chapter 44

  • Halleck held Jessica at knife point until Paul was able to convince him that she was not the traitor
    • Jessica was so moved emotionally by his intellect, awareness, and understanding for her and everything that has happened
  • Halleck offered his life for his mistake but Paul and Jessica assured him that their family don’t kill those they love, and they forgave him

Chapter 45

  • Chani and Jessica helped revived Paul, and Paul proved he was able to transform the poison maker water as the Reverend Mothers were able to do
    • He also told them that outsiders were waiting above to land on the planet to raid them

Chapter 46

  • During the attack, Paul got a message that his son was dead and that his sister was held captive

Chapter 47

  • The emperor showed he was able to capture Muad’Dib’s sister and exposed the Baron’s plot
  • The Fremen forces attacked the emperors ship as the royal guards struggled to defend it

Chapter 48

  • Hawat, in front of the emperor, gave his life to Paul by killing himself instead of attacking Paul
  • Paul won the duel against the Harrkonen and began negotiation with the Emperor to gain his riches, wed the princess, and solidify his power

Closing thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book and I can see why it’s been a favorite of so many people over the years.

I watched a few YouTube videos about the history of Dune in pop culture, as well as the franchise’s foray into videogames in the 90s and early 2000s. It seems like the reason that Dune didn’t have as much recent commercial success is due to the success of Star Wars, which George Lucas admitted to being inspired by Dune. After watching that, I realized that there were a ton of parallels between both sci-fi universes.

Nonetheless, the plot and character development were both very well done. I admit that usually in the beginning of fictional books when all the exposition and world-building takes place, I tend to get lost and zone out for a lot of the details. I felt like I did a good job following along in the first few chapters, there were some concepts around the world and politics that I couldn’t wrap my head around until I read a few wiki pages on the characters and overall story.

I highly recommend this book if you’re into this genre. I also highly recommend reading it before the movie comes out, which I think should be in the next year or so. Needless to say, I’m very excited for it!

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

The most obvious takeaway that I got from my notes is also my selection here:

  • To command loyalty, have compassion and empathy for your people

Paul’s father, Duke Leto Atreides, is portrayed as an amazing leader who commands frenetic loyalty with his people. In contrast to the Harkonnens, the Atreides is known to be a house of honor. Their followers would gladly lay down their lives for the royal family because they know that the Duke cares for his people.

I think the biggest takeaway is that the Duke shows what it takes to be a great leader.


Paul Atreides has to navigate becoming a man of prophecy on the sand planet of Arrakis, a land caught up in a power struggle between two houses, the native Fremen people, and the empire. They all seek control of the most valuable drug spice in the universe, melange.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.


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