Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Dust City
Robert Paul Weston
Puffin Canada, 300 pages

Dust City
Robert Paul Weston
Robert Paul Weston was born in 1975. He is a British-born Canadian children's author. His debut was the novel-in-verse, Zorgamazoo. His short fiction has appeared in literary journals in Canada, the UK and the United States.

Robert Paul Weston Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'It's the bones. I can feel them, still moving inside me. Spidery shards that crawl together to weave and knit themselves into hands and teeth -- and they're anxious to escape.'
Dust City is a curious mixture; a cross-genre novel aimed at young adults, yet based on characters from classic fairy tales. The lead character is Henry Whelp, the juvenile son of the Big Bad Wolf who killed Little Red Riding Hood and her granny. A crime for which Whelp senior is now imprisoned at a maximum security facility. Henry, also begins the story incarcerated, in the St. Remus home for Wayward Wolves, for the crime of breaking a window. This is a young offenders establishment, where the guards are goblins. The expectation of those around Henry is that, one day, he will follow in his father's footsteps, and commit a really serious crime. A factor which is the first in a running series of commonplace lessons in life, in this case centering on the sins of the father theme. In due course, events conspire to push Henry into escaping, and setting off on a mission into the dangerous depths of Dust City.

The city is presented as an urban sprawl, where mass manufactured fairy dust -- an undisguised analogue to drugs -- is used by most of the population. Some, quite legitimately, use refined variants of dust as medicines, others are addicted to stronger concoctions, in the manner of cocaine or heroin users. A few seek out high grade dust, for original Brothers Grimm-style gruesomeness, such as the temporary restoration of lost limbs, or bringing the dead back to life. True fairy dust, used to be bestowed for free by the fairies themselves, until they vanished without a trace. Now, distribution of the synthetic version is controlled by two forces. At one end there's Skinner, a disfigured Dwarf with a literal Midas touch, and a mob of Water Nixies to back him up, and at the other extreme, Nimbus Thaumaturgical, a major manufacturing company working within the law. The executives of Nimbus, and their always fully human chosen few, live in the former home of the fairies, a floating town called Eden which hovers above Dust City. Down below, on dirty street corners, dealers sell risky variants of dust, in communities which are ghettos for anthropomorphized animal-people, known collectively as animalia. True humans are known as hominids, and the two groups distrust each other. Again, this is an undisguised parallel to ethnic, social and racial tensions. Among the animalia species, it is the wolves, foxes and ravens who dominate, but there are other inclusions, such as donkeys. Quite why the author chose a sterile creature as one of his animalia group, is a mystery that remains unexplained. Young Henry, at times aided an abetted by other wolves, elves and at one point a devolving animalia frog, seeks to penetrate to the core of where synthetic dust really comes from, and crucially, if a dangerous mix of the stuff was used to force his father into a murderous state.

Dust City is a charming concept, and Henry as the central character has that vital likability. These pluses are hampered by the rather hazy background to the world in which the story is set, and the clumsy way in which versions of classic fairy tale characters are plugged in and pulled out of the story as and when the author needs them to push buttons. Cindy Ella runs the Home for Wayward Wolves, the police are represented by a female detective called White, and Henry's friend is a young thief named Jack, who happens to have some magic beans. For any fantasy world to make the grade believability must be at its core, and at times I struggled with Dust City. The idea was there, but the execution simply did not include the level of detail and credibility that I believe today's young adults expect. Except, incongruously, when it came to scenes involving the resurrection of a murdered child, and later, bodily mutilation. Ultimately, my feeling was that Robert Paul Weston had done a job that was acceptable, but not as good as it should have been, had he spent more time building the foundations of his world. The stardust sprinkling of literary magic was present, but had drifted a little off target.

Copyright © 2011 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide