Post #58: Dust City

Dustcity
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston

Post number fifty-eight is for Robert Paul Weston’s Dust City, which is fairy tale-based in that it’s about the son of the Big Bad Wolf who killed Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. It was a required reading assignment for my Fantasy Lit class, and while gritty and gruesome in some places, I actually liked it a lot.

Spoilery thoughts below.

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So Henry, the main character, is currently serving time in a juvenile detention center for dropping a brick onto a window a passing delivery truck. Henry’s father is in jail – he’s been accused of murdering Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother – and his mother was killed by a delivery truck (the same company whose truck got the busted window courtesy of Henry). Henry’s best friend in lockup is Jack (of the beanstalk fame), who has a girlfriend, Siobhan. Henry’s mortal enemy is Roy, who is also a wolf and also currently in lockup.

After the psychiatrist is killed, Henry discovers that people have been keeping certain things from him, and he decides to get out of juvy and go on a search for the truth. See, the faeries have disappeared, and their realm – called Eden – is now home to a company that sells “dust” (i.e. fairy dust) to help people with their ills. There’s also a thriving underground dust business; this dust comes from the nixies and is a bit more “magical” (or at least more reminiscent of the original magical fairy dust), and can therefore do things that the manufactured stuff cannot. But Henry figures out pretty quickly that things are quite wrong in this city, and that there’s some underhanded scheming and a whole lot of lying and turning blind eyes going on, so with the help of Fiona, Roy’s sister, he sets out to try to figure out what is going on.

There’s quite a lot of violence in this book. This is not a pretty fairy tale world; it’s very dark, with a lot of conniving people running things behind the scenes. The main bad guy (if you will) is Skinner, who Henry thinks may have manipulated his father into committing the murders he’s in prison for. I enjoyed the relationship between Fiona and Henry – it helps balance the darkness – and also the humor from Jack in the beginning. There’s not really a happily-ever-after, either, although things are more hopeful at the end. But there’s also a lot of prejudice between the Edenites (i.e.  humans/hominids, like giants, humans, dwarves, etc.) and the animalia who aren’t allowed in Eden. So the story is also dealing with that.

The torture/violence reminded me slightly of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere; I had to skip some portions of the story because the violence was so specifically spelled out. I can handle a lot, but some of it was just truly dark and twisted and awful. That being said, the story itself is really well done, and, again, I liked it a lot. Just don’t let the fairy tale aspect throw you; this is not bright and sunshiny and glittery. Think of it more like the actual Grimm fairy tales; not all of them really had happy endings, after all.

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