In 2021, Dune, the best-selling and arguably best-known science fiction novel of all time, was turned into an Oscar-winning film by French director Denis Villeneuve. This adaptation of the original book brought the imaginary worlds of author Frank Herbert to a new generation of fans, as well as to masses of lifelong Dune aficionados. But even those who were already familiar with the Atreides family, Arrakis, and the many other fantastical elements that Herbert first dreamt up in the 1960s, were not fully aware of the real-world influences that had guided the author’s creations all those years ago.
Which is why a book like the Worlds of Dune is a welcome addition to the many publications that have been put out in the last 50 years on the topic of Herbert’s work. Written by London-based film and TV journalist Tom Huddleston and published by Quarto imprint Frances Lincoln, this new release offers an in-depth exploration of the places, events, and cultures that captivated Herbert during the writing of Dune, and became integral in his world-building.
Set across six novels, the Dune universe is a rich and complex one, but in his latest book, Huddleston manages to untangle the intricate web of influences at its heart. From classical history to cutting-edge science, from environmentalism to Zen philosophy, and from Arabic texts to Shakespeare’s tragedies, the author dissects each one, explaining its impact on Herbert’s work.
Along with Huddleston’s illuminating writing, based on extensive research into Herbert’s life and practice, the book’s design draws on the visual language of the original Dune books, as well as the wider science fiction genre as it appeared in the 1960s.
Designed by Trystan Thompson at Intercity – the studio founded by former CR art director Nathan Gale – the cover of the Worlds of Dune features a modern condensed serif typeface (Canela by Commercial Type) that was a popular choice for sci-fi books of the time. It also comes with an illustration that renders Herbert’s universe using the kind of simple, contrasting forms reminiscent of these retro publications.
Inside, this tribute to the past is contrasted with an ultra-wide sans serif typeface inspired by the sci-fi genre (Tekno by Good Type Foundry) that both references “contemporary interpretations of the genre” and nods to Denis Villeneuve’s recent film adaptation.
In doing so, it serves as a reminder of Dune’s unwavering influence, even within a literary genre that is now more popular and expansive than ever before. Dune remains not just one of the most important sci-fi books of the last century, but one of the most impactful novels of all time.