Read by Jacqueline Druga
Length: 6 Hrs 58 Min
Genre: Nuclear Post Apocalyptic
Quick Thoughts: Fans of Apocalyptic tales with an emphasis of realistic planning and adaptation will enjoy Dust. While Jo’s plans are the central theme of the tale, its believable characters, realistic scenarios and emotional heart separates it from other novels of the genre.
As someone who reads a lot of apocalyptic fiction and enjoys speculating on just how our world must end, people often ask me exactly what I am doing to prepare for the apocalypse. After asking this question I often get an incredulous stare when I tell them that I’m doing absolutely nothing. Yet, it’s true. If the apocalypse was to happen today, I’m pretty much screwed. I think I have a few cans of soup and some black beans in the cabinet, and that’s about it. There are many reasons why I am not stockpiling food, taking weapons training and radiation proofing my house. One of the biggest is financial. I am not a rich guy. In fact, I often flirt with the edges of lower middle classdom, and I’m probably one major breakdown away from street corner begging. Secondly, I have space issues. I live in a decent size apartment, but not decent enough where hundreds of cans of Split Pea soup wouldn’t get in the way. Yet mostly, I am not sure which Apocalypse to prepare for. There is a mark difference in how someone prepares for differing types of an apocalyptic event. If we were attacked by nuclear bombs, I would need to stock up on supplies and hunker down. Living in the suburbs of a major target city, Philadelphia, it wouldn’t make sense to try and outrun the nuclear fallout. Yet, if the Zombies begin to walk, all those denizens of The City of Brotherly love may very well be heading my way for a brotherly snack. So, with the Zombies, I am not going to take my time to gather supplies. I will grab my loved one and try to find a more desolate and defendable place to hold up. If we are hit by some superflu style pandemic and I manage to hit the genetic lottery of immunity from the disease, supplies won’t be my first concern, since, well, it’s all just sitting around waiting to be picked up. Lastly, with an Alien Invasion, I will simply practice welcoming our new Alien overlords. So, for these reasons, I am not much of a prepper type. I just hope my neighbors are, so I can steal their stuff.
Jo believed she was prepared for Nuclear War. She has spent years gathering supplies and coming up with plans for her and her loved ones. Then the bombs hit Pittsburgh and nine other US cities, and Jo realizes that you can’t prepare everything. In her basement with her 15 year old son and a 3 year old nephew, Jo compiles a list of those she hopes will survive the blast, and meet up with her as planned. Dust is an often frightening, sometimes brutal, but also heartwarming tale of hope amidst the fires of nuclear war. It is a very intimate tale, getting you right into the head of the main character. You experience the emotional turmoil of the events right along with Jo, feeling joy when she connects with a loved one, yet, being devastated as another tragedy hits. I have read quite a few prepper style stories about people or groups who prepared for the apocalypse, and the steps they take when such an event strikes. There is often a feeling of superiority and contempt for man in these stories. They tend to scoff upon those who aren’t as prepared, or who never expected such an occurrence. I was quite happy that this tone never made it into Dust. Druga paints a harsh, realistic picture in her depiction of the events of the novel, but there is never that feeling of reveling in the destruction of the country that permeates some apocalyptic novels. Jo makes some tough choices, and is selfish in her protection other family as she should be, but she is never cruel or heartless. I think what truly set Dust apart from others in this genre is the personal feel Druga gives to the characters. While Dust is absolutely fictional, it has a realistic autobiographical feel, as if these characters truly existed. You really felt that this was a group of people that exists, and this made their struggles feel even more real. You couldn’t help but feel the emotion that Druga seeped into every word of this tale. It is definitely not a perfect novel. There were some frustrating moments, and you really only get brief glimpses of the world outside of Jo’s basement, and its immediate vicinity, but any desire for a greater look at the world was counterbalances by the intimate setting. Fans of Apocalyptic tales, with an emphasis of realistic planning and adaptation will enjoy Dust. While Jo’s plans are the central theme of the tale, its believable characters, realistic scenarios and emotional heart separates it from other novels of the genre.
The audiobook version was read by the author herself. Now, I know this may cause an instant groan among hardcore audiobook fans like myself, but here I think it works. I think people’s reception to the narration will come down to whether or not they like the author’s voice. Dust isn’t read like a professional voice over artist just happened to survive a nuclear bomb, and is recording about it. Druga’s voice has a sort of day old whiskey sour after a pack of Marlboros sound to it. It’s raw and real and fits the first person narrative of the tale well. For her first reading, I though she nailed the mechanics of the reading. The pacing is good, and her voice is natural, but crisp and understandable. There are a few muffled words in the reading, but very few, and they actually add authenticity to the reading. Being an independently produced audiobook, you can be concerned about the production values, but I thought it came together well. There were no noticeable problems that some audiobooks have, breath sounds, poor edits, or the like. It had the feel of a professionally produced audiobook, with a gruff but realistic narrator. Druga’s reading is full of emotion, and added to the authentic feel of the story.
Note: Thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of this title for review.