A dune is a hill of sand built up by the wind. Bare dunes are subject to shifting location and size based on their interaction with the wind. Some species of plants will colonize and stabilize a dune, but they represent a fragile ecosystem.
Also, a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. It and the five sequels are considered by many fans of the genre to be the best science fiction epic ever written. It is certainly one of the most popular.
Dune chronicles the conflict between the aristocratic House Atreides and House Harkonnen, behind whom lurks the power of the Emperor and House Corrino, and the Spacing Guild which has a monopoly on interstellar transport.
Behind the scenes, strings are being pulled. The Bene Gesserit is a secretive group of witches with almost magical powers developed through many years of physical and mental conditioning. When an acolyte progresses to be a full Reverend Mother, she gains her ancestral memories -- the complete memories of all of her female ancestors. She cannot recall the memories of her male ancestors, and fears the place where they live. The Bene Gesserit are conducting a breeding program to develop a superhuman, who will recall not only his male memories but his female memories, and the ability to see the future. They call him the Kwisatz Hadderach.
On the fringes of the Galaxy are the Tleilaxu and Ix, a planet whose history is so lost to the mists of time that they don't even known their planet is so named because it is ninth from its sun in an extinct language.
The Fremen are the indigenous population of the planet Arrakis. They are a hardy people, used to hardship and deprivation. They await their Messiah, a legend planted intentionally all over the Universe by the Bene Gesserit as part of their wholesale manipulation of cultures. They Messiah legend is intended to ease the path of the Kwisatz Hadderach when they bring him into being. The division of the Bene Gessert which is dedicated to religious manipulation is the Missionaria Protectiva.
The Harkonnens are ordered by the Emperor to cede stewardship of the planet Arrakis (known generally as Dune) to the Atreides. Dune is the sole source of melange, a "spice" that gives prescience and prolongs the user's lifespan; it's the most valuable commodity in the universe, and it is found only on Dune. Thus, the planet is the political fulcrum of the Universe.
In a Harkonnen attack, Paul Atreides, the ducal heir, loses his family, but is embraced by the indigenous Fremen as their messiah. In accepting the mantle of godhood, Paul launches the Atreides on a course that spans 10,000 years through the next five books.
- /Characters - from the Dune novel
There is also a prequel trilogy to Dune, comprising Dune House Atreides, Dune House Harkonnen and Dune House Corrino, produced not by Frank Herbert but by Brian Herbert (son of Frank) and Kevin J. Anderson. It is based on Frank Herbert's notes found after his death.
Official website: http://www.dunenovels.com