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A Town Called Dust by Justin Woolley

  4.5 Stars

With Saturday’s lunar eclipse ready to strike a match on the sheer side of the Uranus – Pluto square, I’m thinking the best thing to do is relax and catch up on the *TBR list. It’s actually doing wonders for my serotonin levels; I highly recommend it. While in the process, with my two-birds-one-stone Mars in Capricorn, I’ll review some of the more enjoyable reads as I go along, starting with A Town Called Dust.

I actually won a Kindle version of Dust over at the wonderful Escape Club YA Bookclub – their first giveaway since moving to Goodreads.

This book is written by Justin Woolley, a graphic novelist venturing forth with A Town Called Dust as his debut novel. Nicely done. The story is rich with complex politics and religious structures, but the heart of it centers around two youths. One is a boy named Squid, a timid, maltreated orphan who’s taken in by his aunt and uncle. They have a remote dirt farm (they literally farm dirt!) near the post apocalyptic outback town called Dust. The other half of this heart belongs to Lynn, a girl raised in the comparative comforts and privilege of Alice, the capital of the known world (that we’ve seen so far).

The genre is Speculative Fiction, the sub-category YA Dystopia, the big bad, zombie-like ghouls. These ‘night of the living dead’ creatures lumber around in hordes and the only thing keeping them from devouring the remainder of the human population is the ‘ghoul proof fence’ that runs forever through the territory, and the Diggers, men (only men) trained to keep the threat back should a breach occur. Which it does. At the start of the story, ghouls break through in plague proportions. The narrative hits the ground running from there, and barely pauses to catch its breath.

It’s a page turning, but that’s not all I love about this book. The world building is strong, the mythology intriguing. Woolley very subtly brings up issues of gender, race, privilege, education and religion without distracting the eye from the story itself. It’s not just Rabbit Proof Fence meets World War Z, though there are actually elements of both, and they work. A Town Called Dust has an emotive core, fueled by our heroes Squid and Lynn, whose responses remain consistently believable, as do their growth arcs.

On critique, two things. One is *POV changes, a hallmark in Fantasy that can be a bit jolting. I know I’m forever looking for ways to make these feel seamless so I acutely watch how others do it. There were times I didn’t want to leave the POV I was in; other times the shift felt absolutely natural. Two, a story world where the ultimate threat is a horde of mindless-flesh-eating-machines posses its own problems. Unless you go the way of Isaac Marion, there’s not a lot of room for a growth arc, change or surprise. Because I like my baddies with a touch of good, and my goodies with a touch of bad, it will be interesting to see if the human antagonists become more complex and unpredictable as the series unfolds. Woolley gives us a taste of this in a minor character we meet along the way, and it’s brilliant.

Published by Momentum of Pan Macmillan Australia, this is a fabulous debut novel. I will definitely be reading Woolley’s next installment in the series!

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* to be read
* point of view