Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Read in 2016 - 9: Dust

At first I didn't quite know what to make of this (relatively short) novel. Is "Dust" by Arthur Slade a horror story? A mystery? A coming-of-age tale? Maybe all of it, and there is certainly no need to sort each and every book into a category.

Rural Saskatchewan in the late 1920s or early '30s, anyway, some years after the "Great Crash": Robert's seven-year old brother decides to walk into town instead of riding on the cart with his parents, who follow the same road shortly afterwards, only to discover that their little boy has never arrived in town.
Robert, 11 years old and different from the rest of the family in that he loves books and treasures his privacy, has stayed behind. While everyone is away, some strange things occur which could all be coincidences and have natural causes, but make for an uneasy, ominous atmosphere on the small, dusty farm.

Michael's disappearance coincides with the arrival of a stranger in town - a stranger who promises to change the life of the small, relatively poor community for ever.

Soon, everyone seems to be under the stranger's spell, with the exception of Robert, his uncle and one of the Mounties who have been involved in the investigation of Michael's disappearing.
More children vanish, seemingly without a trace, and their families and friends soon lose interest in finding them - it is almost as if they had never existed.

For a while, life in the small dusty town indeed seems to improve greatly, thanks to the stranger's plans. But of course not all is what it seems, and Robert, now 12 years old and on the border between child and young man, needs all the courage he can muster to get to the bottom of the mysterious events.

I really enjoyed this free ebook; the story was gripping and I wanted to know what happened to the characters and how Robert was going to solve the mystery. Even the scary bits are described not overly gory (I don't like all the gory detail some authors and their readers seem to be so fond of); had this book been available in my childhood, I would have been able to read it without having nightmares (I think).

The author, Arthur Slade, is less than a year older than I. He has written 18 novels, some of which form series ("Dust" isn't one of them), and some comic books. On his website the headline reads "Worlds of Wonder and Imagination" - and this story certainly set my imagination going!


  1. You have a kindle, don't you? I have a Nook and the Barnes & Noble store has different free books than Amazon. This sounds intriguing. I'm like tou, I don't like gore.

    1. Yes, my kindle is my beloved and trusted travel companion :-)

  2. I'm not sure this is the sort of story I would like....I don't usually like stories about children disappearing! But you describe it very well, I think.

    1. There is much to like about this book, too, Kristi. I have not yet mentioned, for instance, that Robert loves to "collect" words. He hears or reads a particular word and "stores" it because he loves the sound and what it means.
      I very much like how Robert's perecption of the world around him is described, very plausible.

  3. I'm pleased to hear that DUST has had a good reception, so to speak. It was my first book that captured my childhood. Not that I had any supernatural rainmakers in my hometown (though the town I grew up in did have a rainmaker show up in the 1930s who promised rain, but instead stole a whole bunch of money). I was trying to recreate what is was like growing up on the prairies with a crazy imagination. So that's why Robert is such a "word" boy.

    1. Hello Arthur, what an honour to read yours, the author's, comment to my review of "Dust" on my blog! Thank you very much for having taken the time to pop in.
      I could have said a lot more about "Dust", but did not want to make the review too long. Some of the words Robert collects (and what they mean to him) are great, and the general atmosphere of the place is captured so well, I think - of course I've never been to a similar place, let alone in the late 1920s/early 30s, but this is how I imagine it.
      Once again, thank you!