Friday, May 8, 2020

Reread: Dust

Continuing on with my apparent quest this year of rereading books/finally finishing a series, I've now turned to Elizabeth Bear's Jacob's Ladder trilogy (which I am referring to as my "quest to Grail" because I've already read the first two books in the series).  I decided to tackle Jacob's Ladder right after the Inheritance Cycle because I needed a break from epic fantasy.

I admit, I was somewhat hesitant to reread Dust.  While I don't remember much other than the ending, I do remember loving it (not so much Chill, the second book).  Would it hold up?

As I said before:
Dust tells the story of two girls. Sir Perceval was captured in battle, her wings cut off. She waits only to die, to be consumed by her captor. Rien is the serving girl who was to attend Perceval, and who is also Perceval's lost sister. Together, the pair escape Rule and set off to find their father in hopes of stopping a war. Their journey takes them throughout their world, the ruined starship Jacob's Ladder, in an unforgettable story that I couldn't get enough of!
But I didn't give much detail of the book.  Perceval used the nanotech chains that bound her in Rule to help her and Rien escape, but the chains became new wings that attached themselves to Perceval's back, melding onto the stumps of her old wings (Rien called the new wings Pinion; Pinion scared both of the girls because they had a mind of their own),  After escaping Rule, the pair finds themselves in a Heaven (which is like an orchard with different fruit trees) where the necromancer Mallory and her companion, the basilisk-looking cutting torch Gavin, reside.  Mallory gives Rien a peach which contains the essence of a long dead engineer, as well as a plum (which Rien keeps but has no intention of eating after consuming another being in the peach).  Gavin decides to accompany Rien and Perceval to their father, leading the way.  But thanks to the engineer inside of her, Rien finds a side tunnel that will get them there faster, where they discover their uncle, Tristen, whom everyone thought was long dead.  Together, the four of them make their way to Benedict Conn.  Then one of the ship's AI fragments, Dust, makes himself known to Perceval and kidnaps her with his construct, Pinion; Dust wants Perceval to become the ships new captain, but this involves Perceval submitting to him (or one of the other fragments).  In an attempt to save her, Rien, Gavin, Benedict, and Tristen make their way to Engine searching for allies; there Rien meets both her mother and Perceval's (they have different mothers) and unravels the plot centered around Perceval that threatens the whole world.  Racing to her sister's side, Rien sacrifices herself to make the ship AI whole and save her sister and everyone else on the world.

It was a different experience reading Dust this time, because, while I didn't remember most of how the story went, I did remember the ending.  And seeing the book building inexorably towards it and Rien's sacrifice was quite something.

But even though it was a different experience, I still loved this book.  Rien, Perceval, and Gavin are all fantastic characters.  I love how Rien, thanks to her upbringing as a Mean and servant in Rule, looks at the world in a more naive yet also more suspicious way than Perceval.  And how Rien is just an all around good person, willing to name the nameless (even when she offers to name her armor, she detects a jauntiness in the armor's step).  Perceval, in comparison, is much more world-weary from being a knight on errantry (but her errantry makes her more open to the trials of the world; if not for her, they wouldn't have saved Tristen).  I liked how the narrative switched between the two as well.  And of course, Gavin just added that little bit of spunk to the team.

I also love the worldbuilding of Dust.  How the Means, while looked down on now, were meant to be the controls in the great experiment that  was Jacob's Ladder.  How to save itself, the ship's AI fractured (and pieces of it have been lost).  How the split between Engine and Rule happened because when disaster first struck centuries ago, the engineers and command didn't agree on how to save them.  I'm so glad that Dust remains such a fantastic read. :)

Of course, now I have to tackle Chill....and while I don't really remember the book much at all, I remember it being terrible, especially in comparison to Dust.  We'll see though; maybe it'll be better when I read it right after Dust rather than a year later?

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