DUST by Charles Pellegrino


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 Brilliantly scary (and highly entertaining) vision of eco-catastrophe, courtesy of the maverick scientist whose DNA-in-amber theory gave us Jurassic Park. Frogs dying off mysteriously, mad cow disease, toxic algae blooming in the ocean: Horror gets personal as Pellegrino (the nonfiction Return to Sodom and Gomorrah, 1994, etc.) paints his vision of how these events could all be symptoms of a collapsing world ecosystem. Scientist Richard Sinclair is helpless when clouds of ``dust'' devour everyone in his small town, including his wife. Escaping with daughter Tam to the Brookhaven Labs on Long Island, grieving Richard joins a team trying to puzzle out the incident. Soon it becomes clear that Earth is entering one of its extinction cycles, brought on by a mass die-off of ants, flies, and other insects. Within weeks the soil goes sterile, crops fail, India invades Pakistan, starving vampire bats bearing mad cow disease swarm into the Caribbean--and cities around the world simply ``drop off the map.'' As a frantic Richard and a former rival, Leslie, succeed in ``biomorphing'' replacement insects from dinosaur-era ancestors locked in fossil amber, mobs begin attacking laboratories, urged on by neo-Luddite talk-show host Jerry Sigamond, whose hatred of science in general and Sinclair in particular runs deep. Recognizing the danger, the scientists prepare a huge dirigible to spirit away, Ö la Noah's Ark, the biomorphs and assorted children, but Sigamond's mob moves first. Only a nuclear strike--sent by a mad cowinfected officer in charge of an underground missile silo--allows the dirigible to take off. But when it breaks apart over the Atlantic, Richard must choose between saving his daughter or the biomorphs, humankind's likely last chance. Horrifying set pieces, lively characters, intense doses of cutting-edge research (too much of a good thing at times): first fiction worthy of comparison to Childhood's End and When Worlds Collide.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-380-97308-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1998


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