The first Dune book (called Dune) was published in 1965. Almost 60 years later, the franchise is still ongoing, with a massively successful 2021 film to boot. The success of this film has inspired a new generation of readers to explore the Dune series, but what’s the appropriate age to read these books?
The appropriate age to begin reading the Dune books is about 11-14, although some books in the original series, particularly Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, contain mature themes that would not be suitable for young children. Much of the franchise is best-suited for teens or young adults.
This article will explore the factors that influence the appropriate reading age for the Dune books, helping you decide whether you (or your children) are ready to enjoy this franchise. Let’s get started!
Reading Level of the Dune Books
Those looking to determine the appropriate age to read the Dune books will first want to consider reading level. After all, books with a high rate of complex words can confuse younger readers.
However, there are quite a few books (almost two dozen) to consider. The Dune book franchise is ongoing, with the latest addition set to hit store shelves in September 2022.
But many readers consider the first six entries in the Dune franchise to be the true series. After all, the first six novels of the Dune franchise are the only ones written by Frank Herbert, the man who started the series.
As such, I’ll be assessing the reading level of the first six Dune novels:
- Dune Messiah
- Children of Dune
- God Emperor of Dune
- Heretics of Dune
- Chapterhouse: Dune
To do this, I’ll be utilizing the Lexile framework for reading to evaluate the reading difficulty of each of the books in the original series.
Lexile Level of Dune
The first book of the Dune series features a Lexile rating of 800. As a result, readers in Grade 3 and up can understand the vocabulary and navigate sentence structures. But readers with a 5th-grade reading level or higher may have an easier time with this novel.
Lexile Level of Dune Messiah
The second entry in the franchise has a slightly lower Lexile rating of 780. Consequently, it may be suitable for readers with a 3rd-grade reading level (or higher).
However, according to the Common Core State Standards, the ideal reading level for this novel is 4th or 5th grade and above.
Lexile Level of Children of Dune
The third novel in the Dune franchise, Children of Dune, has a Lexile rating of 820. Readers with a 4th-grade level or higher should be able to comprehend most of the vocabulary used in this book.
Lexile Level of God Emperor of Dune
Like the second book in the Dune series (Dune Messiah), the fourth entry has a Lexile rating of 780. This scoring makes it one of the easier-to-comprehend books in the series, with an anticipated comprehension grade level falling on and above 3rd-grade.
Lexile Level of Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune
Unlike the initial four books in the Dune franchise, the final two novels don’t have an associated Lexile score. This absence of scores is likely due to the fact that these books contain mature content that many parents may find unsuitable for children.
Mature Content in the Dune Books
If you’re a parent, one of the primary questions you might have about the Dune book series is: “Are the Dune books suitable for children?” One of the best ways to answer this question is to analyze the original six novels to determine whether they contain mature, adult-oriented content.
Mature Content in Dune
This book doesn’t contain sexually explicit scenes, but it features implied sexual activities. Violence is mild and minimal, though present.
Some may find the drug-like substance Spice to be too mature for younger readers, but others may find it to be more of an allegory for addiction. Notably, addiction can affect individuals of all ages, so the concept of Spice may not be inappropriate for middle-school-aged (or older) readers.
Dune may be best suited to pre-teens and teens (ages 12 and up).
Mature Content in Dune Messiah
Though the violence in the first Dune book is mild, the violent scenes in Dune Messiah are far more intense and regular. As a result, this book is better suited to teens and young adults (ages 14 and up).
Mature Content in Children of Dune
Violence, death, and addiction make frequent appearances in the Children of Dune novel. Suicide is also present in this book. As a result, this third book has more mature themes than the first two, and some parents may find this material objectionable, no matter the age of their children.
Mature Content in God Emperor of Dune
This novel presents the first noticeable surge of sexually explicit content in the Dune franchise. Parents may not feel comfortable allowing children to read this book, though teenagers may find the content comparatively tame.
Mature Content in Heretics of Dune
Nudity and sexually content are par for the course in Heretics of Dune, making it one of the most adult books in the original six-part series. However, due to the general nature of these adult themes, this book is appropriate for teens and young adults.
Mature Content in Chapterhouse: Dune
The final Dune book written by Frank Herbert is chock-full of sexually explicit material and potentially mature themes such as brainwashing and violence. Though scenes are far from what you’d find in erotica, parents may object to children under 14 reading this book.
Potentially Problematic Aspects of the Dune Book Franchise
Apart from occasional sexual content and the drug-like nature of Spice, some may find other themes in the Dune book series objectionable. For example, the primary antagonist acts as a messiah-like figure, which could prove bothersome or offensive to members of some religions.
Frank Herbert, the author of the six initial Dune books, was raised Catholic. His upbringing has influenced many of the major themes of the book series. As such, members of the Catholic church may find his use of religious terminology through the franchise inappropriate.
Most children who are middle-school-aged can begin reading the Dune book series. Most of the books within the franchise fall into a middle school or high school reading level, and mature content is minimal throughout the first two books.
However, the final four books contain adult content and themes that may be more appropriate for teens and young adults. Additionally, parents may feel the drug-like nature of the Spice material mentioned in the Dune series (and the quasi-religious undertones) are objectionable.