I wasn't able to finish reading this book, and that doesn't happen often with me. However, the dialog was repetitive, the plot sketchy and the characters not very well developed. I would not recommend this book.
You think, 'Ho hum, another end-of-the-world story, so what?' But this apocalyptic vision by Pellegrino is anything but ho-hum! Cutting-edge scientific discoveries are paraded and clearly described so that even non science majors can understand them---and be suitably terrified...
Think of a cross between Niven & Pournelle's LUCIFER'S HAMMER and Pat Frank's ALAS, BABYLON, with some major description/explanation of the world of insects sprinkled on top. This is one damned scary 'What if...' tale that I can recommend most highly.
From back cover: 65 million years ago the dinosaurs vanished off the face of the earth. Now it's our turn!
In an idyllic Long Island community, paleobiologist Richard Sinclair is one of the first to suspect that the environment has begun to wage bloody, terrifying war on humanity. What initially appear to be random, unrelated events are actually violent eruptions in a worldwide biological chain reaction. Along with a brave group of survivors, Sinclair justlearn to understand the catastrophe while it roils around them, slowly crumbling a panicked world and threatening apocalypse. The survival of humankind depends on finding an answer immediately--or else they will face the final, tragic destiny of their species.
Its not a bad book, but its not really a good book either. Fun wouldn't really cover it either, cathartic might be the best description.
Dust is a neat mix of techno-thriller and disaster novel. The reason I say this is because of the large information dumps that Pellegrino places in the book to explain what is going on and why. Also like techno-thrillers, the characters are kind of weak and stiff and there are so many of them it really needs a cast of characters list. And I think I understand why the characters aren't very substantial - most of them die in job lots and I think I'd get burned out doing that with characters I care about.
If anything it reminds me of Niven & Pournelle's Footfall and Lucifer's Hammer, with a dose of John Barne's Mother of Storms thrown in to add to the pathos. It is a disaster on a global scale, all from the extinction of insects humans would consider nuisances and pests. The disasters start with mite swarms devouring people (the dust of the title) then moves on to vampire bats switching prey species and spreading a mad cow like disease to people. It eventually caps off with mass extinctions and global warfare as nations mobilize to capture what crops they can and it eventually goes nuclear.
Outside of the characters, my biggest issues are that major actions take place off screen, or only at the individual level. Yes, they do add up to the global view, but its a bit like a mosaic. The next issue I had were the President (never named) that seems to be too ignorant, incurious and useless to have gotten to the office. Then there is Jerry Sigmond. The charismatic sociopath, who hitches his fortune to the anti-science movement and becomes the personal nemesis of the scientific hero, Ricahrd Sinclair. I didn't like him, found him repellent but have to wonder how accurate that view of the sociopath is.
Now, where the book really shines is the ideas. Or at least novel ways to end civilization and have some extinction level events. The likeliest reason that the insects die off is a genetic time bomb that goes off every 33 million years (give or take a percent) as a way of helping the species survive periodic cometary bombardment, as well as resetting the board for new speciation. Really cool ideas - unless you happen to be the dominant species at the time (that would be us humans). If you can buy the premise, then from there the rest flows logically as he takes species to new prey as their old prey have died off (due to the kill switch) or been eaten (because the things that kept the predators in check are no longer in play). And Pellegrino has a horrible imagination of how you can die as civilization and and ecologies collapse.
So, 3 stars.
Likes: Neat, if terrifying ideas; decent predictions of technology (LTV=HDTV, cybergloves=Wii controllers).
Dislikes: Stiff to wooden characters; not enough dialogue; president didn't seem real more like a chorus or something.
Suggested for: Fans of Footfall, Lucifer's Hammer and Mother of Storms. I'd also suggest it for fans of Peter Watts' Rifter series.
Great end of the world book, based on the decline of species diversity. Insect species disappear, setting of a chain reaction which leads to economic collapse, world war, and the near-extinction of mankind. Very good reality-check scare!
Creepy and cool. I loved it. I think about this book often. I may read it again.