Frank Herbert’s Dune, originally published in 1965, has become a cornerstone of science-fiction. It quickly became a fan-favorite and many science-fiction readers are looking for more books like Dune.
It’s an epic story that has been adapted for TV and movies several times.
Dune is by many seen as the greatest science-fiction novel ever written. Even today, it remains one of the most important and influential science-fiction novels ever written.
It’s set in the distant future, in a time when a huge interplanetary empire rules over various planetary fiefdoms.
Our protagonists are the member of House Atreides which is assigned fief ruler of the planet Arrakis. Arrakis is known as Dune for its inhospitable climate and shifting sands.
Yet, there’s much more to the planet. It’s the only source in the universe for the melange, or spice, a drug that not only extends life and enhances mental abilities, but is also necessary for space navigation.
Before long, however, the Emperor conspires with the House Harkonnen. They are the former stewards of Arrakis and an enemy of House Atreides.
Dune is a rich novel full of different cultures, alien ecology and political intrigue. Yet, there are more of these. It focuses heavily on climate change and environmental issues, but also features religious symbolism and physical musings.
It’s a fantastic novel of ambitious scope that will stay with you long after you finished it.
Altogether, the original Dune saga comprises six novels by Frank Herbert himself and more than a dozen written by his son Kevin J. Anderson
For this article, I’ve put together a long list of books like Dune you’re sure to enjoy. If you’re looking for more science-fiction recommendations, be sure to check out my list of the best science-fiction novels.
Table of Contents
- Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
- Hyperion by Dan Simmons
- Jaran by Kate Elliott
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
- The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
- Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
- The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
- The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley
- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
- Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
- Involution Ocean by Bruce Sterling
- The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
- The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
- Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie is a space opera set in a massive galactic empire.
It tells the story of an AI who controls the massive spaceship Justice Toren, but is also linked to thousands of human soldiers.
When the Toren Justice is destroyed, a fragment of the AI lives on in a single human body going by the name Breq. Breq now sets out on a quest for both finding answers and vengeance.
Ancillary Justice is a mystery that’s slowly unraveled. It’s a story full of political intrigue, philosophical discussions and centers heavily on artificial intelligence. The best part, however, is the layered plot and its massive payoff.
Another point to note is that Ancillary Justice was the first novel to win the Hugo, the Nebula and the Arthur C. Clarke award.
It’s a brilliant book for those who are looking for books like Dune. It’s smart, fun, inventive and features a cast of fantastic characters.
After its release The Fifth Season won the Hugo award for best novel, so you know it’s going to be good. Even more so when you learn all three books in the trilogy won the Hugo award.
Simply said, it’s a masterpiece which tells a similar tale to Frank Herbert’s renowned classic.
It’s set in an alternate, far-future earth set on a single, Pangea-like continent which is caught in a cycle of catastrophe and wracked by natural disasters. The titular ‘fifth season’ is what the inhabitants call the recurring periods of catastrophic climate change.
The opening of the book starts when a powerful ‘orogene,’ a human who can manipulate Earth’s crust, causes massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and tears the land in two.
Orogones are a race of magical users who are enslaved and oppressed. Each of our narrators is a member of this race and as their stories slowly become entwined, the complexity of the overall plot becomes clear.
The Fifth Season is a novel that centers on both a very personal, family narrative and world-spanning, cataclysmic action. Political and magical power go hand-in-hand, yet a lot is hidden under the surface.
The Fifth Season is a fantastic fusion of science-fiction and fantasy, and it more than deserves its place on this list, especially for its fantastic storytelling.
Similar to Dune, it features both theological and supernatural elements akin to those of the Bene Gesserit. It’s a book that stands out for its meticulous world-building and deep character development.
It’s again only the first book in a series and followed by two sequels, The Obelisk Gate and the Stone Key. Both two are worth reading for those who are looking for books like Dune.
Hyperion can be called the Canterbury Tales of science-fiction.
It’s another novel set in the far-future, the 29th century. This masterpiece is a must-read for anyone who likes books like Dune.
Taken inspiration from the way the Canterbury Tales, it comprises six novellas.
They center on several pilgrims who meet on board a ship on their way to a world called Hyperion. This world is not connected to others via a farcaster portal and beyond the reach of the galactic law. When war rages, these seven pilgrims set out on their final voyage in search of answers.
These pilgrims are the Priest, the Soldier, the Poet, the Scholar, the Detective, and the Consul. On the way, each of them tells their story about how they came to take this journey.
All those stories, however, slowly reveal a larger plot little by little.
Dan Simmons uses these stories to paint a rich picture of his universe. It’s a vast place, one populated by desert planets, ocean planets and replicas of Earth.
Hyperion is a novel that features religion, war, family strife, political intrigue and artificial intelligence.
Once more, it’s only the first in Dan Simmons’ fictional universe and is followed up by three other books in his ‘Hyperion Cantos.’ All of them are equally worth reading for those who are looking for books like Dune.
Kate Elliot’s novel is set in an interstellar future in which the vast Chapalii Empire governs conquered planets. One of them is earth.
Similar to Dune, the novel focuses on a protagonist caught in the middle of interstellar politics, war, and intrigue. Her name is Tess Soerensen, and she’s the sister of the former leader of Earth’s rebellion against the alien invaders.
While the rebellion was a loss, however, the rebellion’s leader was given a dukedom and granted nobility.
Tess, however, leaves her home for the planet Rhui. There she meets the jaran, the natives who live as nomads and who’ve long forgotten their heritage. Before long, Tess is intrigued by their ways and comes to share an emotional connection with their charismatic leader, Ilya.
Soon enough, Tess finds herself between tradition and advancement, extinction and survival.
The most interesting thing about Jaran, however, is that it uses many established tropes, but changes them up and moves them into new directions.
Jaran is a book highly recommended for those who like books like Dune.
The Left Hand of Darkness is one of the earliest and finest examples of feminist science-fiction.
It centers on a Terran named Genly Ai who’s takes to negotiate with the planet Gethen to join a vast interstellar confederation. The inhabitants of Gethen, however, are ambisexual and their culture clashes with those of the confederacy.
It’s essentially a novel which focuses on and explores an alien culture through the eyes of a visitor.
The novel again focuses on extreme climate conditions. At one point, our main character, Gently Ai, has to travel across an ice sheet for 80 days, almost losing his life. Another similarity to Dune is the focus on religion and prophetic elements.
What The Left Hand of Darkness is best known for, however, is its study of gender.
It’s a fascinating, and thought-provoking read and one I highly recommend not only for those looking for books like Dune, but for any fan of science-fiction.
Leviathan Wakes is the first book in The Expense novel series which comprises nine novels.
Humanity has colonized the solar system, which is divided between three warring factions.
The novel itself explores two major plot points.
The first centers on James Holden, who’s working on the ice hauling ship ‘Canterbury.’ His life changes when the Canterbury responds to a distress signal. The crew stumbles upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli where they find a secret they never wanted to know and who someone’s willing to kill for.
The other centers on detective Miller, who’s looking for a lost girl. Before long, this search leads him to the Scopuli. He soon realizes this girl might be the key to everything.
These two mysteries are, of course, connected, and the clearer this connection becomes, the more the intrigue grows.
As the novel continues, our main characters are slowly brought together from different points in the solar system. Both Miller and Holden must now hold their own not only against the Earth government but also the Outer Planet revolutionaries and secretive corporations.
In the end, the stakes are high, and our heroes know that what they are after could save or destroy humanity. For out in the belts, a single ship can change the fate of the universe.
Leviathan Wakes is a fantastic book, one much closer to home than other books like Dune. It’s very worth reading, especially for its mystery elements and the fantastic narrative.
The Long Tomorrow is one of the few novels on this list preceding Frank Herbert’s Dune.
It was written back in 1955 and tells the story of two boys.
In a post-apocalyptic world, science and civilization are feared. Yet, our protagonists long for something greater than their simple, agrarian life.
Together they set out, travel through a war-torn land and discover a lot about themselves, but also the basis for the beliefs that have spread.
The Long Tomorrow is an interesting and well-written book with a great premise. What makes it especially worth reading is that it precedes most of the other novels on the list.
Lord of Light is an interesting blend between science-fiction and mythology.
It might sound similar to Dune at first hand, but it’s also vastly different.
While Dune creates its own mythology from scratch, Lord of Light blends Hindu and Buddhist beliefs into a fantastic interstellar adventure.
While Earth is long dead, this novel is set on a post-Earth colony. There, a group of man has gained control of technology, become immortal and now rule their world as the Hindu pantheon.
Opposing them is Mahasamatma, once known as Siddhartha, who’s known as the Lord of Light.
Yet, where Lord of Light stands out, the most is in terms of political intrigue. Like in Dune, it’s one of the major themes of the novel. Yet, it also heavily focuses on the themes of colonialism and spirituality.
Overall, a book very worth reading for those who are looking for books like Dune.
This novel follows Severian, who’s a member of the torturer guild.
His life changes when he falls in love with one of the condemned, a young noblewoman. First, he’s delaying her torture before he eventually helps her commit suicide to save her from her dire fate.
This act leads to his exile from the guild to a distant metropolis.
This exile is the beginning of a heartbreaking adventure full of political intrigues not too different from that of Paul Atreides in Dune.
Yet, things get much more interesting when he comes into possession of a strange gem. It soon becomes clear that a variety of people seem determined to get their hand on it.
Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer is a masterpiece of science-fantasy and a great pick for fans of books like Dune.
The Stars are Legion comes with a very interesting and unique setting.
While many other books like Dune are heavily inspired by Frank Herbert’s epic, the Stars are Legion is entirely different when compared to Dune. What it stands out for, however, is its epic scale, prose, characters and storytelling.
It’s set in a collapsing mass of world-ships at the edge of the universe called Legion.
Wars about control of legion are an ever-present reality, but so far there’s been no resolution.
As world-ships die, people get desperate and different factions try to uncover the secret of the central ship around which all others orbit.
At the center of these events is Zan, an amnesiac girl who’s trying to regain control of one world-ship and leave Legion. While she’s far from the only one with this goal, she, similar to Paul Atreides in Dune, seems to be the key.
She bands together with a group of other cast-offs and starts a war that only she can hope to win. Before long, Zan will learn that she carries what could destroy all of Legion or lead to its salvation.
The Stars are Legion is a fantastically well-written novel that tackles contemporary problems such as politics, gender identity and using people as mere tools to gain power.
The Foundation Trilogy is yet another work centering on a vast galactic empire.
Yet, Asimov’s story is different, as it portrays the collapse of an empire. What’s interesting, however, is that this collapse can’t be averted. Instead, its effects on humanity can only be dampened as much as possible.
The story of The Foundation Trilogy centers on the efforts to preserve the empire’s galactic knowledge and culture and eventually establish a new galactic empire.
It’s inspired by Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which is noticeable right away.
The Foundation Trilogy focuses much less on a single narrative, but presents us with various events that take place during the fall of the Galactic Empire and the subsequent rise of the Foundation. Each of these events is detailed in a short story or novella, features its own characters, plots and crises to overcome.
What’s interesting about The Foundation Trilogy is that it relies much less on gripping action and space battles, but more on clever plots, twists and political theory.
Originally published in the 1950s, The Foundation Trilogy is considered a masterpiece of science-fiction.
If you’re looking for books like Dune, a science-fiction fan and have never read it, I highly recommend it. It’s at the pinnacle of the genre and considered one of the greatest works of science-fiction at all.
Kim Stanley’s Red Mars is the first in his acclaimed Mars trilogy. It’s a book like Dune, mostly for its setting.
It tells the story of an international expedition comprising one hundred colonists who set foot on the barren planet with plans to establish a colony there.
Using a variety of terraforming technology, they set out to change the planet forever. Yet, there are, of course, those who want to prevent the planet from ever changing.
Red Mars, however, as opposed to Dune, is a hard science-fiction novel. It concerns itself deeply with terraforming and dives deep into it and its intricacies.
Yet, it’s not merely a book about planetary physics, but also one about war and politics. It also discusses a variety of contemporary problems, namely environmental issues and our overreliance on certain resources such as oil.
In Red Mars, the central question is one about human nature. Is it possible to build a better society? To discuss this question, Kim Stanley Robinson uses the attempted colonization of Mars.
Red Mars is a great read for science-fiction fans, especially those who like hard science-fiction.
Riverworld is an odd book, yet similar other books like Dune it’s set in the far future.
The ‘Riverworld’ is a terraformed planet. It comprises a single river and valley that runs the entire circumference of the planet and is fed by a polar water source.
One day, for unknown reasons, every Homo sapiens, from the first to the latest most evolved, is resurrected along the banks of the river.
Stories of the dead coming back to life are nothing new, but Riverworld is definitely different, which can be noticed by its cast of characters.
While it features its fair cast of fictional characters, it also features prominent historical figures. Those include Mozart, King John of England, Hermann Goring and Mark Twain.
Yet, what makes the book even more interesting is its focus on how a modern, futuristic society changes these characters.
While Riverworld might sound weird at first hand, it’s a very interesting book with a unique setting that tackles deeper questions than one would first imagine. It especially focuses on sexual and religious themes.
It’s definitely a must-read for fans of books like Dune and especially for those who are interested in historical figures.
At first glance Brave New World might not appear a book like Dune, but similarly to Dune it depicts a futuristic society and people’s struggles for what’s important.
The book’s story is set in 2540 and humanity lives in an idealistic society. People aren’t born but engineered in artificial wombs. They go through childhood indoctrination before they are put in predetermined castes.
In this society, there are no long-lasting relationships and everyone belongs to everyone. Depression, doubt, and unhappiness can simply be cured by a drug called Soma.
Bernard Marx is a member of the highest caste who disapproves of this society and its methods. The plot truly starts, however, when Bernard visits a savage reservation and meets John. John is a young man born naturally who grew up in the reservation and knows nothing about the real society.
What’s interesting about Brave New World is that its society might be called a Utopia. People are happy, live peacefully. There’s no war, but it all comes at a price. It’s a terrifying concept, especially given how realistic it might become.
Brave New World is a fantastically written novel, ripe with scientific background and populated by interesting characters. It’s without a doubt one of the greatest dystopian novels ever written.
The Three-Body Problem is the first novel in the fantastic Remembrance of Earth Past trilogy. It’s yet another hard science-fiction novel.
With its focus on scale, it’s easy to see why the Three-Body Problem can be compared to Dune. However, it’s modern and nothing short of unique in the realm of science-fiction.
It tells the story of a first contact gone wrong.
During China’s Cultural Revaluation, a secret military project sends signals into space. Eventually, a signal from an alien civilization, referred to as the Trisolarans, is intercepted by the Chinese government.
A group of scientists, including Ye Wenje, is brought together to deceiver their message. The alien civilization lives in a solar system which comprises three solar-type stars orbiting each other in an unstable three-body system. It soon becomes clear that the Trisolarans are on the brink of destruction, yet this is not the only thing the scientists uncover.
The story of the novel features a huge cast of character and explores fascinating physical concepts. Yet, it also focuses on politics, government authority and other similar themes.
After reading this novel and especially the rest of the series, it’s easy to see why Cixin Liu is China’s most popular science-fiction writer. The Three-Body problem is often called the best Chinese science-fiction novel of all time and highly recommended to those who are looking for books like Dune.
Involution Ocean is another book like Dune, which might be called a speculative fiction version of Moby Dick.
Our protagonist, John Newhouse, is hooked on a powerful narcotic drug named Flame.
There’s only one source. It’s derived from whale-like creatures native to the dust seas on planet Nullaqua.
When the drug gets outlawed by the Galactic Confederacy, however, John has no choice but to sign up as a seaman aboard a dust whaler and hunt the creature himself.
Involution Ocean features not only a setting similar to Dune, but also a cast of fantastic characters. They comprise junkies, misfits, but also weirder characters and those who hide their own dark secrets.
Yet, the plot of the book doesn’t center on political conflict or war. Instead, similar to Moby Dick, it centers on the confrontation between man and beast.
The book, however, also focuses on and studies the various aspects of human nature.
Involution Ocean presents us with an astonishing imaginative world. Yet, what makes it so similar to Dune is its focus on a rare commodity and the native megafauna which are both very reminiscent of the planet Arrakis.
A brilliant novel that is highly recommended reading for fans of science-fiction.
The Windup Girl is a novel set in a dystopian future Thailand. It follows a diverse set of characters as they try to survive in this setting.
One is a man named Anderson Lake. He works as a Calorie Man for the AgriGen Corporation. Working undercover as a factory manager, he’s tasked with combing Bangkok’s street markets for foods thought to be extinct.
Emiko, on the other hand, is known as the Windup Girl. She’s a beautifully engineered being who was grown and created to satisfy the whims of a Japanese businessman. After being abandoned, she now walks the streets of Bangkok.
People like Emiko are known as New People. They are feared and regarded as soulless. They are nothing but slaves, soldiers, or toys.
The Windup Girl is a fascinating novel set in a future in which fossil fuels are a thing of the past and bio-engineering runs rampant.
The book focuses heavily on such issues as climate change, the nature of humanity and how counts as human, who doesn’t and why not. Another, more important them, however, is that of calories becoming a currency and that of bio-terrorism.
The Windup Girl is nothing short of fascinating and one of the greatest science-fiction novels of the twenty-first century. Those looking for books like Dune should definitely check it out.
The Forever War starts out similar to many other science-fiction novels and space operas. Humanity gets in contact with aliens, conflict starts and war breaks out.
Our protagonist, William Mandella, becomes part of an elite military unit that travels the galaxy to fight the alien enemy in what should become known as the Forever War.
While the earlier chapters in the book which focus on military training and the first battle against the alien antagonist can be weak, the book soon gets much more interesting. It explores a variety of complex themes and draws an intricate and realistic picture of not only interstellar war but also futuristic society.
As the story continues, Mandella wants to go home, but soon realizes that what he remembers as his home might not be anymore. Because of the vast distances of space and the unexpected circumstances of space travel, he might only age months while on Earth decades and even centuries pass.
While the Forever War is a space opera, the battle scenes are actually one of its weaker elements. They are much more realistic than those in other novels, but also less exciting.
Where the book really stands out is in the exploration of its various more complex scenes. The most interesting of those is the vast changes society goes through over decades and centuries and how one adapts to them.
While the book has its weaker elements, it more than makes up for it by the complex themes it tackles.
It’s clearly one of the best science-fiction novels out there and highly recommended for those who look for books like Dune.
Starship Troopers is another classic in the realm of science-fiction. The story is set in the far future and humanity is dominated by a military elite referred to as the Terran Federation.
The novel follows Juan ‘Johnny’ Rico, a young man, through his service in the Mobile Infantry in which he goes from recruit to officer.
All this is told against the backdrop of an interstellar war between humanity and an alien species known as ‘Arachnids’ or ‘Bugs.’
As a big fan of the movie by the same name, I expected the book to be an action packed science-fiction novel, but it was a much deeper and more complex book.
Many parts of the book are devoted to classroom scenes in which Rico and others discuss philosophical and moral topics. Those include civic virtue, war, military doctrine and suffrage.
While I don’t agree with Heinlein’s ideas and find some of them questionable, these discussions were some of the most interesting parts in the book.
Yet, the book still has its scenes of brutal action, they just aren’t the focus of the novel.
Overall, Starship Troopers is a science-fiction class. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for books like Dune, but especially those who are interested in military science-fiction.