Dust by Elizabeth Bear
2007, Bantam Books
Review Summary: My only real complaint with Elizabeth Bear’s Dust is that it went by way too quickly. I look forward to seeing what the further adventures entail, to see what exactly the author is attempting to say in this unique setting.
My only real complaint with Elizabeth Bear’s Dust is that it went by way too quickly, leaving me wanting more. I was both pleased and disappointed that the story will be continuing in successive novels – I wanted to continue reading without delay, continue delving into the world she had created for the story. And at the same time, the novel works so very well on its own as a stand-alone storyline that I am nervous that the author will be unable to continue the promising work she has begun here with Dust.
The characters are briefly drawn, but conveyed with a confidence and style that works successfully to draw the reader in while at the same time allowing the reader to understand their relative unimportance to the real, larger story being played out in their world. These characters may be engaging, but the sense of history Bear is able to imply, and the nonchalance with which she conveys their stories – that these are just the latest generation of people to live and die and struggle in this world – only makes the sense of this world more realistic and convincing. They may be alive during and participating in a momentous occasion in their world, but the storyline they are a part of stretches back hundreds of years before they came onto the scene.
The plot is very broadly a standard sort of exploration/journey/quest, but the world Bear depicts is fascinating enough to make the journey worthwhile.
Thematically, I am not yet sure what Bear is intending with this series. She seems to be setting up something potentially very dark with the mysterious purpose of the journey’s original builders and planners, and she may have some very interesting things to say on the political and power struggles that have developed on board the nearly decimated ship. The embodiment of friendship and love in her core characters may also be a worthwhile exploration as well. I look forward to seeing what the further adventures entail, to see what exactly the author is attempting to say in this unique setting.