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(Jacob's Ladder #1)

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  2,143 ratings  ·  303 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
Paperback, 342 pages
Published January 2008 by Spectra (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  2,143 ratings  ·  303 reviews

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J.L.   Sutton
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Bear: Everyone's Utopia Is Someone's Dystopia – Locus Online

Loads of interesting concepts and wonderful writing in Elizabeth Bear's Dust (Jacob's Ladder #1). The story, set on a generational ship, is driven by divergent evolution, advanced biotechnology, AI's, and a new mythology. This sort of speculation is something I really appreciate about science fiction. The plot is sometimes confusing, but the actual writing and language is very strong. I look forward to reading more from Elizabeth Bear.

Aside, I met Elizabeth Bear at GenCon in Indianapolis (8/2/20
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
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fof-reads, audiobook
Delayed review, at last:

I really don’t know what I just read, for two reasons. One, I was confused as all get out. Second, my mind was drifting to things that were more interesting, like the hands of my clock turning around. Nice thing about audiobooks are that when you drift or fall asleep, they continue to play. Eventually I heard “The End” and I could mark the damn thing as complete.

There were elements in this book that reminded me of three others. Unfortunately, it was the annoying qualities
I keep hearing Elizabeth Bear in all my regular haunts, I knew she had a lot of writing with nanotech, heavy-sf, and mythology, all of which I'm particularly fond. So why haven't I picked up her works before now?

I'm an idiot. I can't think of a more accurate reason.

So here I am, reading Dust and seeing a serving girl rescue a princess who just got her wings torn off and the lady of the household is preparing for war. All good and fine for a fantasy novel, only they're preparing for war within a
Lis Carey
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f-sf, fiction, audiobooks
Jacob's Ladder is a generation ship, launched by an unusual religious cult, now stranded in orbit around a double star. After 500 years of drifting in orbit, the ship damaged and the the ship's AI fragmented into multiple units that have been dubbed Angels, the ship's population is divided into separate, rival populations in different parts of the ship. Rule and Engine are about to go to war. There's a struggle over who will be the new Commodore.

But the stars are heading toward going nova very s
The Shayne-Train
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent, sometimes-surrealistic, sometimes-ultra-realistic story of angels and knights and computer avatars trying to save/take over/destroy a huge, almost-decrepit generational starship that has become the 'world' to a human population.

This is an extremely hard book to review, I find. There's so much going on. But, as is always the case with Ms. Bear's superb writing, the tapestry it weaves inside your mind is gorgeous, nuanced, and satisfying.

I plan to read the other two in the t
aPriL does feral sometimes
The front cover might give the impression this sophisticated YA book is a religious fantasy, but IMHO the story is pure science fiction.

The plot is a mystery and a quest, with a fantasy tone. There is a lot of extremely impressive advanced biotechnology which has reshaped some humans into winged body forms. There are AI's which think of themselves as incorporeal gods/angels, creating their self-image from the ebooks within their computerized libraries. There are animals and insects scampering ab
Feb 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
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.

Shaun Duke
Dec 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
“Oh, space.”

Elizabeth Bear's Dust is the first in a frequently disorienting, occasionally downright trippy, always original and thoughtful trilogy that is set in a space colony circling a pair of suns that are dying very, very soon. That will be the end of them all. There are things that are surprisingly similar to my life – they eat quinoa, sweetened with honey and soy milk – and others that are very different. Their world is populated by angels and Exalt, the Mean, resurrectees (zombies), basi
Kate Sherrod
Apr 13, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Alexis Hall
This is a sort of sci-fi fantasy mash-up (reminding me, in approach, if not in tone or content of the pulp era before SF and F became such distinct and separate things: it's set on a spaceship but there's lots of the stuff you'd normally associated with high fantasy, like myths, and bloodlines, and politicking. It seems heavily inspired by Medieval romances (chivalry, princesses, etc.) but everything comes back to advanced technology, so the swords are nanotech and the angels are AIs.

I think th
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
First in a planned trilogy called, "Jacob's Ladder," "Dust" introduces
us to a decaying generation ship, stuck in orbit around an unstable
star. Originally the project of a religious cult, both the people and
the AIs of the ship have devolved strangely as the years have gone by.
Now, a last few bastions of people live feudally, at war with one
another, and splintered artificial intelligences believe they are gods
or angels - and are also in bitter rivalry.
In a feudal dungeon, the servant girl Rien is
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
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a really good book and I'm conflicted cause there was a lot of stuff that squicked me out but overall I really enjoyed reading it. If you are going to read it be warned for incest and graphic descriptions of injuries, violence and sickness.

Ace rep: One of the MC's was ace. At first I was a little leery because she used the word "celibate" and asexuality and celibacy aren't the same things. But her feelings around asexuality and her orientation did seem to align with asexuality rather th
Bryan Alexander
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: space-opera, sf, fantasy
Dust is a striking and elegantly told generation ship novel.

The plot combines a coming of age story with a political tale. Our heroine, Rien, begins as truly nothing (the French meaning of her name): a kind of scullery maid, family-less and working for a somewhat deranged faction. She connects with a prisoner of war, a semi-human interloper, and begins her ascent to growth, understanding, and even power. Meanwhile, human factions scheme and move against each other, while the starship's old AIs c
May 18, 2015 marked it as not-interested  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Putting this book back on the reread shelf. I feel I didn't give it a fair chance the first time around and it's one of those books that deserves another chance.

* * * * *

This is an interesting mix of sci-fi and fantasy. The story takes place on a living space ship, but a lot of magic is used throughout and there is a war going on that has roots in mythology. A lost princess with no memory of her past is found living among servants at an enemy house. The rest of the story is about rescuing her an
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sf fans that also like fantasy
Recommended to Kerry by: Women of SF 2011 Book Club
Shelves: 9, ebooks, sf, 2011
I really enjoyed this. I was a bit nervous starting as my experience with Elizabeth Bear has previously left me feeling kind of stupid.

I read and loved Blood and Iron and Whiskey and Water, but mostly because of the beauty of the prose. I was left somewhat confused about what had actually gone on plot-wise. For that reason, while I own the other two Promethean Age books (Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth) I've never been quite brave enough to start them. I feel the same way about the Edda's Burde
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, sci-fi, series
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jamie Collins
Apr 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Interesting. Weird. Heavy on the incest. I was going to say that it needed to be developed more (the book, not the incest), but I see there is a sequel. Will keep an eye out for it and report back.
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Superlative use of Arthurian mythology, generation ships tropes, and sprawling families. Yes, it all sounds a bit weird, but it meshes wonderfully well.
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012, e-books
4 Stars

Fun read from a great Author...Review to come.
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. ...more
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grown-up, spectra
Well THAT was a trip and a half.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Its about a generation starship that has broken down and is now orbiting an unstable binary star system. Many have forgotten this is not the entire world. This is of course a familiar trope in science fiction which has been done by Robert Heinlein, among others. However, the author does a great job in turning this trope into an interesting new world. As Arthur C. Clarke once said "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The world appears divided between the Rule (c ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
A lovely read, but I'm not sure that all of the elements of space opera, fantasy, magic and medievalism thrown together add up to a comprehensible story.
A derelict generation ship, post-humans, AI angels and devils, all in danger of being destroyed by a star about to go nova. Somehow the plot is that they can only succeed in saving themselves by an apocalyptic battle over who will captain the ship, and what form they will take.
The writing is great, tensions build as the characters are drawn towa
Matt Hope
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Well this is tough.

I didn’t hate the book but I didn’t fall in love either. It’s not bad by any standards. For my taste it’s perhaps to abstract and primarily concerned with big ideas than the characters which isn’t a bad thing if that’s what you like.

I enjoyed the world built for us in this novel. Imaginative, gorgeous, haunting. The prose is frequently beautiful. I can’t really complain on those fronts.

So then it comes down to your artistic frequency whether this book will connect with you o
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Flights of Fantasy: December 2014 - Sci-Fi: Dust by Elizabeth Bear 12 23 Dec 16, 2014 10:23AM  

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