A nice short essay about Dune over at Tor.com.
Dune is Herbert’s great contribution to genre fiction and fiction at large, but there is no single, definitive reason for its popularity and longevity. Rather, Dune is so complex, so layered as a piece of literature that it is impossible to isolate one aspect that is responsible for its successes. That makes the series, particularly the premiere novel, a difficult one to discuss casually—everyone draws something from it that is unique to their own reading. Everyone has a specific draw, key-in character, academic interest that the story fulfills for them.
Dune was one of those rare seminal texts that I read way back in the dark-age (Junior Highschool), and it forever changed my life. Up until then I was working my way through my father’s collection of pulp 1950s space-ranger type S/F that he read as a kid. Duneshowed me what science fiction could be. This magnificent novel, paired with The Hobbit, where the two books that brought me to my life long love/obsession with science fiction and fantasy literature.
It’s also one of the two books I re-read every year; the other being The Silmarillion. No matter how many times I read either of them, I always discover something more, some new meaning, some greater understanding of the universe. Dune is more than just a great novel. Dune is the Illiad, the Morte d’Arthur, the Song of Roland. It is the epic fiction of the space age standing well above almost everything else, keeping company with the best literature that mankind has ever produced.