Virginia Hamilton Jean Fritz - Essay

Jean Fritz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

No one can claim that "Dustland," the second book in Virginia Hamilton's trilogy, can stand alone. Nothing is meant to be resolved, and I confess that it's hard to wait for the last and decisive volume. It's not simply that I'm impatient at the interruption of narrative; I want to know what Virginia Hamilton thinks. Is there a future for mankind? That's the kind of question she's leading up to and that's what I want to know. And I won't know until the last sparks have fallen.

In the first book, "Justice and Her Brothers," she introduces her characters: Justice, the 11-year-old heroine, her identicaltwin brothers, Tom and Levi, mirror images of good and evil, and Dorian, their strange friend. Although the group lives in today's real world, there is a growing extrasensory power at work that finally binds them together and enables them to enter the future as a unit that promises a new evolutionary step for mankind.

"Dustland" is the future which the unit enters in the second book. A barren place of boundless dust, it is the result (and this is barely suggested) of a chemical disaster. But it is not uninhabited. Fleshy little Dawips are there, finger-like worimas, three-legged Slakers, and most important to the plot, Miacis, a friendly dog-like creature who breathes through ear pouches and mind-reads with the children. Although the personalities of the characters are maintained, they become somewhat abstract as each assumes a specific role in the unit on which survival depends. The plot centers around the terror that Tom causes when he breaks the unit and runs away. (pp. 26, 28)

Although we find few answers at the end of this volume, we are thoroughly involved with the quest and know at least that there is more to the future than Dustland. What else? Is it reachable? Perhaps there can never be definite answers. But from Virginia Hamilton we can count on wisdom. The final book will be worth waiting for. (p. 28)

Jean Fritz, in her review of "Dustland," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1980 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 4, 1980, pp. 26, 28.