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Dust (Jacob's Ladder, #1)
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Dust (Jacob's Ladder #1)

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  1,080 ratings  ·  163 reviews
On a broken ship orbiting a doomed sun, dwellers have grown complacent with their aging metal world. But when a serving girl frees a captive noblewoman, the old order is about to change....

Ariane, Princess of the House of Rule, was known to be fiercely cold-blooded. But severing an angel's wings on the battlefield even after she had surrendered proved her completely witho...more
Mass Market Paperback, 342 pages
Published January 2008 by Spectra (first published January 1st 2007)
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Best Science Fiction With a Female Protagonist
182nd out of 594 books — 1,585 voters
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Sword and Laser Sci-Fi list
175th out of 390 books — 971 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,256)
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Shaun Duke
Last year I reviewed Bear's Carnival and have had my eye on her since. She's one of those few writers who manages to write science fiction that deals with serious issues that doesn't feel so serious to me--and don't get me wrong, I like serious SF, but it's nice when you can get a story that is occupied both by future ideas and societal issues.

Dust is an unique novel--not necessarily original, but unique. Unlike Carnival, Dust seamlessly merges fantasy and science fiction, making it the kind of...more
I sped through the last quarter of this book not because I wanted to know what happened, but because the story was trash and I just wanted to get it over with. I guess it says something that I actually finished the book, but I'm not sure what.

Dust takes place on a giant multi-generation space ship that's stranded in space. In case you haven't been reading my reviews, don't ever ever go into space. Bad stuff ALWAYS happens in space. And the "bad stuff" in Dust is mostly the storytelling.

Three stars for the following:
- Completing what must have been a very challenging book to write, and
- The setting and premise (I love the lost generation ship trope)

That's where the praise ends, though.

Strike one star for overt, unnatural sexuality. I don't know why science fiction authors apparently believe they cannot produce a good story without sexual situations that reach way past even liberal modern boundaries of acceptability. Likely, it's safer to experiment in one's imagination, a pr...more
Dust is a difficult book to review. It is a work of glorious genre- and gender-bending. It had moments of hilarity and moments of heartbreak, and way more sensawonder than any book I've read this year (including Zelazny's Lord of Light and M. John Harrison's Light). But the characters were ciphers to me through the first two-thirds, and I'm positive that I didn't get any of the allusions fully. Still, I shall do my best, and talk about the elements that occur to me in order.

First, the science fi...more
Finished Dust by Elizabeth Bear a couple of days ago, and really liked it.

A thousand years ago, a sect left Earth in a huge generation ship called the Jacob's Ladder. After about 500 years, something catastrophic happened, disabling the ship's engines. It was parked in orbit around a binary star and patched up as well as possible, but large percentages became uninhabitable. Another 500 years later, the various members of the Conn family feud against each other in several medieval-like holdes. Th...more
I got about half way through this book before I realized I actually couldn't care less about the characters. I pondered why, because I found the book interesting and it was filled with queerness, which I love in my sci-fi, and the court intrigue was convoluted, as it should be... but as our heroines found themselves in danger I had no sense of urgency. I just felt ho-hum.

So, as I finished the last bit of the book I tried to decipher why I felt like that. I finally decided that the book is not vi...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kate Sherrod
Not since I committed the slight error of letting the Wizard-Knight series be my first Gene Wolfe reads have I been so baffled and yet intrigued by a book as I was as I started Elizabeth Bear's Dust, the first book in her "Jacob's Ladder" series.

Superficially, the two works have a fair bit in common: mysterious, half-mythological worlds strange technology that looks like magic/magic that looks like technology, strong theological overtones*, opaque and ambivalent secondary characters, puzzling an...more
Deborah Brannon
I finished this one last night and, upon sleeping on it and reflecting, have decided that I don't much care for it. The premise is intriguing and full of curiosity: so much so that I do want to see where Elizabeth Bear takes it. I'm just not sure I want to actually read the ensuing books to find out. I may simply wiki it when the time comes.

However, I found the writing difficult. Bear's style is very, hmmm... staccato. Abrupt. Ragged. I couldn't get into the flow of the story because the rhythm...more
(January book for "The Women of Science Fiction" 2011 reading challenge.)

The really short version of Dust is that it is a story about the people on a generation ship. Which is, of course, true. But the generation ship has been stuck in “temporary” orbit around this particular star for 500 years after an unknown disaster forced it to find somewhere it could stop for repairs. In that time, the people, and to some degree the ship, have forgotten that the ship is a ship meant to be moving to somewhe...more
I was disappointed with this - I expected to like Bear's work, but I didn't even finish this book. The prose is fine, but the characters are bland and interchangeable and the world-building is frustratingly shallow. There are some nice concepts, but I felt like there wasn’t much substance to the story. I just couldn't stay engaged with it.

The plot summary sounds fascinating: the crew of a multi-generational colony ship parked for repairs after a catastrophe 500 years ago, and now their descendan...more
The base concept behind the story I really like: a generation ship with the basic societal structure broken down and distributed unevenly from base components. All the technology is there, but it's all been transformed into myths and legend.

What ruined it for me is about halfway through, when there was an unnecessary sex scene. OK, fine, I can skip over that, and ... oh, look another one! I can appreciate a finely crafted tale with the occasional sexual dabblings, but the story was already faili...more
Another example of fascinating worldbuilding hamstrung by terribly flat characters, uneven pacing and jarring prose.

You've got a slowly crumbling world-ship in orbit around a dying star controlled by transhuman feudal 'nobles' descended from original crew, with the ship's computer split into warring AIs. Seriously cool.

Unfortunately, most of the characters don't have much of a distinct voice, and there were a number of elements in the conclusion that left me scratching my head. The first book i...more
A generation ship breaks down and starts orbiting a dying sun, the inhabitants split into factions that start struggling for control of the ship--or just their personal fiefdoms--as the centuries drag on. This falls into a genre I've never quite gotten, science fiction that explicitly chooses fantasy trappings. Societies have a medieval structure with inheritance among families and knights going on quests, while genetic engineering and nanotech provide miracles and mythical beings and computer s...more
Based on the book jacket description, this sounded like an epic fantasy. It's not. It's actually science fiction. Weird science fiction.

The book opens with Perceval Conn captured, her wings cut off. The girl taking care of her, Rien, turns out to be her half-sister, who helps her escape, and off they go to save the world. Except this world is just a really big spaceship called the Jacob's Ladder, and they're the results of a science expedition to send an evolved version of humanity out into the...more
This was a very confusing book. This was also a very good book full of surreal, poetic science fiction and exquisitely complex heroines. I didn't know what was going on until the last fifth of the book, but there was something that kept me tethered to the story. Seriously strange stuff.

To reference Francesca Lia Block, "love is a dangerous angel." And so is this book.
SubterraneanCatalyst -Censorship is for the Weak
Weird. Interesting. Could have been better but wasn't bad. Agreed with other reviewers that character development was lacking. Will read the rest of the series to see the conclusion.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Alderman
When I first saw Dust in my local bookstore, I put it on my list of 'want-to-read-later' books. The description and the cover did enough to spark my curiosity. It wasn't until I actually obtained this book and then put it on my 2012 Reading List that I realized it was merely the first in a series of three novels. And needless to say, I won't be reading the other novels.

If you go to my Goodreads list you'll see I have quite a few books with five-star ratings. I give a book five stars if it kept m...more
Dust by Elizabeth Bear is the first book in the Jacob's Ladder trilogy, a 2007 release. The trilogy is categorized as science fiction, however I found enough fantasy elements in this first book that places it firmly into the science fiction/fantasy category for me. This didn't surprise me overmuch after having read some of Bear's other works and discovering her talent to seamlessly weave fantasy with mythology, so why not with science-fiction?

Bear takes a broken down ship in the middle of space...more
Second book of Elizabeth Bear's that I've read (with the first being All The Windwracked Stars), and she just keeps blowing my mind with her beautiful juxtapositions and unexpected combinations.

Dust is one of the most interesting generation-ship stories that I've read. The story is not entirely straightforward, and not explained in easy to digest info-dumps for dummies; the characters unreliable narrators; and the pace reasonably driving (although perhaps a little too condensed in the last thre...more
Oct 09, 2011 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
(originally reviewed on starmetal oak book blog)

In Dust, Bear creates a vast and wonderful society living in large spaceship that is often referred to as the world. Something I didn't know because I am new to hard science fiction is that a generation ship is a known occurrence in the genre. It's a ship that is created and outfitted to last several generations traveling in space, and thus required to sustain its occupants so that when it eventually reaches its destination, the species are still...more
Although I read this fairly quickly and didn't give up on it, I didn't really like this book.

Don't get me wrong, the author's writing is good. And the whole idea should have meant a good book. Should have.

The main thing that I didn't like about this was the incest. Almost every relationship was incestuous, and to me that was just wrong. I couldn't get invested in any relationship because of that.

And all of the characters who did have a significant other didn't seem to hold any emotion for the...more
Jo  (Mixed Book Bag)
Dust has been in my electronic TBR pile since I purchased my first eReader 5 years ago. I loved the premise: A broken generation ship, a star about to go nova, and two women who unite to save the day. Sounded just like something I would love to read but when I started the book I did not get past the first few pages and never picked it up again. Then several weeks ago I was looking for a new audio book and saw Dust. I will often listen to a book I would not read so I checked it out. I am glad is...more
A generation ship, disabled, limps in orbit around an unstable binary star that could self-immolate at any moment. For five hundred years, Engine and Rule have established quasi-medieval fiefdoms with the Exalt - whose bodies are augmented by a nanotech symbiont - ruling over the Mean. And the artificial intelligence that once controlled the ship’s systems has splintered into ‘angels’ - chief among them Samael, the angel of death (or life support, at any rate) and Jacob Dust, the angel of memory...more
This was the first of Bear's books I read, and she immediately earned a place among my favourite SF authors. At first it seemed the storytelling was headed in a direction that amateurish authors often take: of creating a glitzy, complicated setting by throwing jargon around. Talking about Exalts and Means and the tension between Rule and Engine, while the Enemy waits just outside the World... But this turned around quickly.

Before this style had a chance to sour my reading experience, Bear starte...more
I should have loved Dust. It has all the elements I tend to love in a story. Religious allegory? Check. Strong characters? Check. Sacrifice for the greater good? Check. These are all things I enjoy in Fantasy, but they didn’t draw me in this time. It took being almost halfway through for me to not get distracted away easily. One thing I really did enjoy was that the main character was a lesbian, but her sexuality doesn’t define her. Too often a homosexual character’s sexuality plays a major role...more
The concept of the stranded generational starship isn't new. It is a great platform to discuss society and the authors belief of society and how pressures of proximity allow for a condensed version of time to show how societies grow and evolve or de evolve however the case may be.

The difference in this book is in the quality of the characters and her ability to add in teh concepts of high fantasy into the setting of a technological world. She uses the tropes of magic and of "spirits" into a mod...more
Nancy O'Toole
The World is at war. After losing a fight with Airane, Princess of Rule, Sir Perceval is taken prisoner. Wracked with sorrow from the loss of her wings during the battle, Perceval waits alone in her cell to be executed. Then she meets her caretaker, a young servant named Rien. Rien doesn't know it, but she is actually Perceval's half sister, and royalty herself. Perceval and Rien must escape from Rule. If they don't, not only will Perceval's body be killed by Ariane, but he mind consumed as well...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

She lives in Massachusetts with a Giant Ridiculous Dog. Her partner, acclaimed fantasy author Scott Lynch...more
More about Elizabeth Bear...
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“The kiss tasted of bitter sleep, the sourness of the wine. Something brought by each of them.” 2 likes
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