Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Dust City, by Robert Paul Weston is amazingly inventive. It's also what I like to call a well-balanced book. The elements of fiction are all of equal value--character, setting, plot, point of view, theme. It's not unusual for setting to get too much attention in a fantasy story, but not here.
How inventive is this thing? I can't even imagine how the author came up with the basic premise. Well, actually, I can imagine it because I've now read an article in the National Post that explains some of it. But the very most basic beginning step--that the Big Bad Wolf offed Red Riding Hood and her grandma while on, essentially, drugs--Well, there's a thought a writer can run with, and Weston does.
Weston takes his world of hominids and animalia--here a kingdom of animals that has evolved so that they can stand upright and speak and function in human-like ways, even to the point of attending institutions like St. Remus Home for Wayward Youth--and joins it with a noirish story of a son trying to assist his criminal father. Fairy dust has a part in the story, and my faithful readers are aware of how much I hate fairies. But the beauty of Dust City is that the fairies are kept offstage, which is right where I like them to be.
I would say that Dust City is also elegantly written, even literary, because what is happening with our protagonist, Henry Whelp, in terms of what kind of wolf he could end up being is as important as the plot about whether or not there is dangerous fairy dust and, if so, where is it coming from? It's a sophisticated book for sophisticated teen readers who remember their fairy tales.
Oh, and here's a terrific marketing point about Dust City. On the back cover there are no blurbs. Instead, you see in big print "WHEN YOUR DAD IS THE WOLF WHO KILLED LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD LIFE IS NO FAIRYTALE." I don't know about anyone else, but that's a much bigger draw for me than a quote from some writer I may or may not have heard of saying, "Loved it!"
Dust City was a 2010 YA Edgar nominee.