Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, Book Review, Dystopia, Fiction

When the Dust Fell

If you’re looking to read about a dystopian post-apocalyptic world, with the disaster having been brought on by aliens, should you try this book? “When the Dust Fell” by Marshall Ross surprised me in many ways – not all of them good.

The Blurb

Sarah Long was a geologist scanning the Mariana Trench when she discovered a ship deep in the ocean. Her trying to see what the mystery ship was, is what woke it up. It’d been three years since that moment, the moment the world changed forever. Since then, she had been living on the alien ship, with Trin, her alien boyfriend. She had used her time to learn the alien language and their ship’s secrets.

We come to know her when she receives a message from her sister that she is alive and needs help. The message comes in a very strange form, but she follows up on it anyway, so we witness her journey home, through a changed world. And in this new world, the mayor of New York, self-proclaimed king of New York, thinks Sarah might be useful to his own plans.

Spoiler-free Opinions

I was enthusiastic about the book, especially because in the first few pages we find out so many things that can set such wonderful scenes. However, the enthusiasm slowly died off when Sarah made some inexplicable, not really believable decisions. That made her soon very disagreeable as a main character. However, she is the only one developed enough that we can form an opinion on. Trin, the alien boyfriend, is ok-ish as well, though he did nothing to make me like or dislike him.

The most interesting character, weirdly enough, was the mayor of New York, Tom Nader. He is a self proclaimed king and rules the city and near by areas. Everyone fears him, as he searches for more and more power. And if you want to know how this relates to Sarah, either read the book or the spoiler filled section 😉

I wish so many things were different for this book! We get so, so little detail as to what exactly happened when the alien ship came to life that it made me not really care about the current state of affairs. Basically half the world was turned to dust and we don’t witness any of it, we just see its fall out and it gives us the idea that something is missing.

We know Sarah sets off to help her sister, but the way she does it is so sketchy and completely unreasonable.

We know Sarah had agreed to come to the ship to learn more about it and for the aliens to understand us better, but what was the point?

Why weren’t there other contacts made with official governments etc.? It seems the aliens agreed there is no point in killing everyone, but it also didn’t seem to have another plan. For three years, the ship just established itself in a perimeter and defended itself. Three years is a long, long time to do nothing. The whole thing seem pointless. It is also a long time not to have contact with one’s sister and yet determine she needs to set off looking for her on her own.

A thing that pleasantly surprised me was the setting of the ship in Russia. It also talked a bit about Putin and Europe so it gave me the illusion it’s something we can live through any time soon. I loved that, especially because most of these books only talk about the impact of such a world changing event on the U.S.. Nobody thinks twice about what happens to the rest of the world. This was a welcomed change.

For a post-apocalyptic novel it was sluggishly paced. I also didn’t connect with the characters. It seemed to me like a plot-driven book, with a badly written plot and the few interesting ideas it had – not at all well developed.

The writing was fine. I really appreciated how smooth the transitions were from Sarah’s journey to her time on the ship, but it didn’t hit all the good stuff you expect in this genre. I read a lot of this kind of literature and it should have been a lot more thought provoking, especially since the premise involves God. I won’t say how it involves him, but that is the book’s most interesting part.

Spoiler-filled Opinions – Stop, if you want to read the book first

Sarah has a comfortable life aboard the Kalelah, the alien ship, and seems to be in love with Trin. She is currently pregnant with him and still decides to leave without warning him. She decides to find her sister after receiving an obscure message from her. The message comes from persons aboard the ship, who later don’t remember having talked to her. So there is a bit of something paranormal happening that doesn’t seem to affect Sarah at all and doesn’t seem to make her reflect more about her decision to leave, not even about the part of not telling anyone she’s leaving. Nothing in this premise makes any sense at all and it was enough to infuriate me. I kept on reading and the action develops a lot more naturally from this point on. Sadly, I don’t feel it’s enough.

I loved the mayor of New York. He seems to have more clear reasons for doing things and seems to reflect more about the state of the world. He is the one giving us a bit of insight into people’s minds after society collapsing and I appreciated that. However, though he wants Sarah on his side in a grandiose plan of rebuilding the society, he goes about it in a very convoluted and ultimately wrong way. He also doesn’t seem to mind killing whomever is no longer necessary to him, without real reasons for it.

Sarah’s journey to the mayor is filled with little crisis. They hardly seem too bad for an apocalyptic book, especially as people decide to help her fairly often and she successfully kills whoever is a menace with her alien weapons.

An interesting thing was how the ship had an A.I. that developed feelings for Trin. The A.I. was the one that helped Sarah escape the ship and kept the fact hidden from Trin. That was a great plot twist and it really made the A.I. seem very human-like.

But the best thing about it was that God was just an alien on their original planet, their own king-like figure. Anything around that – I just couldn’t get enough of! I was sorry it was superficially treated, I would have loved to know more about the alien world, as well as how this knowledge would impact religions on Earth.

All in all, I didn’t enjoy this book. It was too slow paced for my taste, I didn’t care at all about the characters and the plot was very implausible. However, I am a picky reader and have very big expectations about post apocalyptic reads. Please, feel free to check it out for yourself.

P.S. I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley. Watch on Goodreads here the publication date if you want to purchase it.

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