Dune won the Hugo Award in 1966, and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Reviews of the novel have been largely positive, and Dune is considered by some critics to be the best science fiction book ever written. It is the world's best-selling science fiction novel.
Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke has described it as "unique" and claimed "I know nothing comparable to it except Lord of the Rings." Robert A. Heinlein described Dune as "Powerful, convincing, and most ingenious." It was called "One of the monuments of modern science fiction" by the Chicago Tribune, while the Washington Post described it as "A portrayal of an alien society more complete and deeply detailed than any other author in the field has managed ... a story absorbing equally for its action and philosophical vistas ... An astonishing science fiction phenomenon."
Algis Budrys praised Dune for the vividness of its imagined setting, saying "The time lives. It breathes, it speaks, and Herbert has smelt it in his nostrils." But Budrys also found that "Dune turns flat and tails off at the end. . . . [T]ruly effective villains simply simper and melt; fierce men and cunning statesmen and seeresses all bend before this new Messiah." He faults in particular Herbert's decision to kill Paul's infant son offstage, with no apparent emotional impact, saying "you cannot be so busy saving a world that you cannot hear an infant shriek."
Tamara I. Hladik wrote that the story "crafts a universe where lesser novels promulgate excuses for sequels. All its rich elements are in balance and plausible — not the patchwork confederacy of made-up languages, contrived customs, and meaningless histories that are the hallmark of so many other, lesser novels."
Science-fiction author and literary critic Samuel R. Delany has complained that the book's only portrayal of a homosexual character, the vile pervert Baron Harkonnen, is negative. Kathy Gower criticizes Dune in the essay anthology Mother Was Not a Person, arguing that, although the book has been praised for its portrayal of people in a mystical world, the prominence of its female characters is significantly lower than that of the males. In her view, women in Dune culture are largely left to domestic duties, and the exclusively female Bene Gesserit religious cult resembles age-old notions of witchcraft. Women in this religion are feared and hated by the men. They also never use their power to aid themselves, only the men around them, and their greatest desire is to bring a man into their religion.