Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Pelligrino: Dust - Not With a Bang, But With a Whimper (and Screams)


Periodic mass extinctions—whether caused by meteorite impacts or global climate change—are a fact of geologic history. In Dust, Charles Pellegrino proposes an alternative: buried in the "junk DNA" of insects is a super-hibernation command. Every 33 million years or so it triggers the effective disappearance of all insects everywhere on Earth.

We accept the premise that this vanishment will be followed by the death or drastic change of most other life on Earth. Ever since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring appeared in 1962, ecological disasters have had a ready meme to play in the public consciousness.

While Carson's treatise showed birds, insects, fish and mammals all being poisoned together, however, Pellegrino has given us extinction driven by the loss of a single class. More important, this is not an event we have caused, can control, or could even repair.

The book moves quickly from the premise to deceive in horrifying, agonizing detail how ecological collapse and multiple extinctions cascade from bug-loss. While humans, in their scratching, clawing desperation to survive, do contribute a tiny amount to the disaster, the power of this novel comes from the myriad ways in which we and the greater animals we love simply fold tents in the aftermath of the insects going.

Just keep reminding yourself, it's only fiction.

For real chills, don't skip the Reality Check at the end of the book, in which Pellegrino details the real science and paleohistory that informed his fiction. See the thoughtful review by A. L. Sirois, and Greg Thurlbeck's more critical comments.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A title and link would be helpful.

12/08/2004 1:53 PM  
Blogger DrPat said...

I'm not sure where you are requesting a link and title - perhaps you saw my post on BlogCritics, where the reader is referred directly to Amazon. Because of that, I leave out the links to the book title that occur in my own blog.

Help yourself to access by clicking on the book's title (Dust) in the post above. I can also recommend the reviews I have linked in the footnote.

12/08/2004 2:57 PM  
Blogger samraat said...


4/03/2010 9:25 PM  

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