Dust is probably not a book that I would have picked up on my own, but when I saw that it was the first selection for Dreams and Speculation's Women of Science Fiction Book Club (please join us! Lots of interesting titles!), I figured that it was time to read something a little outside of my comfort zone. The result (as can happen when trying something different) is somewhat complex. I loved many of the challenging concepts that Bear raises in Dust, but I wasn't always satisfied when it came to characterization. I do not think that Dust is necessarily bad book, but it wasn't always satisfying to me personally.
Let's start with the good. The first thing that struck me about Dust was how lovely Bear's writing style is. Although it's true that her prose can occasionally be a little purple, for the most part I enjoyed how it flowed and found her way of describing things to be quite beautiful. I also like how the novel is not afraid to challenge the reader with concepts that often go against the grain. The area where this struck me the most is gender and sexuality. We have multiple characters that reject our black and white concepts of male and female. Dust is also not afraid break sexual taboos, including the big one (incest), and does so without apology. I also found the technology of the ship to be really neat, especially when it came to the concept of colonies.
Now for the not so good. The characterization seemed rather thin to me. I often felt as if development was rushed or forced to fit the needs of the plot, which is one of my pet peeves. Although there were certain characters that I really enjoyed getting to know (such as Mallory and Gavin), a lot of the major players felt very underdeveloped to me (like Tristen and Benedick), which is disappointing given how much screen time they're given. As a result, I never really cared that much about them, or what they were going through. When it comes to plot, at times I found the story really interesting and exciting. I could barely put the book down! Other times, I ended up feeling confused and frustrated. Admittedly, some of this was due my poor understanding of the few instances of hard science, but this was not the only reason. There were a handful of times where I wished that Bear had taken more efforts to explain her world to us.
As mentioned before, my experience with the novel Dust was somewhat complex. I often found the answer to the question “do you like this book?” depended on what chapter I was on. Ultimately I feel as if Dust's biggest strength lies in the thought-provoking concepts raised in the novel. It's biggest weaknesses is that it seems to value concept over character, thus creating a cast of characters that I didn't necessarily dislike, but failed to see why I should care that deeply for. If you're looking to read Dust (whether is' for the book club or not), this may not bother you as much, but I would still hesitate to recommend it.
Rating: three stars
Length: 342 pages
Similar Books: Natural History by Justina Robson (my review)
Other books I've read by this author: this is my first
xposted to temporaryworlds , bookish , and goodreads
Next up I will be reviewing The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud