FROM THE DUST RETURNED
Avon / 288 pages / September 2002
Decades ago, the immortal Charles Addams and the master of science fiction and fantasy Ray Bradbury decided to collaborate on a book that would bring the bizarre Elliott family together in one wild volume. In the way of many things, the book was never completed and Addams left us to muddle through the darker side of life on our own. But, the Elliott family refused to die (or stay quietly dead) and Bradbury never let go the idea.
The result of that intended collaboration, fifty-five years’ gestation, and Bradbury’s incredible talent is the realisation of that dream — From the Dust Returned. Funny thing is, you would swear Addams was there collaborating on every word…
The Elliotts are a far-flung family, having members from the time of the pyramids all the way up through strange, little Timothy who was left on the House’s doorstep to be raised by the Family. Pity poor Timothy who displays none of the characteristics of his adopted relations: no wings, no blood-sucking, no ancient wrappings — not even a hint of shapeshifting. As with most ugly-ducklings, there is nothing he wants more than to be like the others, but he is helplessly human and merely mortal.
The excitement of this year’s special homecoming is somewhat subdued as it has an even darker cloud over it than desirable. Every member of the family, even Timothy, can sense a new risk to the ancient clan. Whether it is a change in the world, a change in their own ranks, or the inevitability of time, an increased danger reaches out toward the immense House and it may take more than the stones and mortar of the building with it in the end.
It is the great threat of dissolution that hovers over all great families with the passing of years. In the case of the Elliotts, it has simply taken millennium to arrive, rather than decades.
From the Dust Returned is a gift to every reader who has ever enjoyed the adventures of an eccentric family or thrilled to tales of creatures undead or simply knows an exceptional book when they come upon it.
Although the words are unmistakably Bradbury’s, it’s hard to get the image out of your mind that Addams was influencing the stories. Perhaps, it’s just the impact of Addams’ arresting cover, created all those years ago. Or maybe it’s the subject matter, so very Addams. (Between you and me, sometimes I even felt the spectre of Edward Gorey leaning heavily on my shoulder to point out a particularly wicked phrase.)
Maybe that is what makes From the Dust Returned such a precious addition to any library — it is the realisation of all the best dark fantasy has had to offer in our lifetimes. How fitting that it should be the master storyteller himself who should pen this dark and wonderful masterpiece. And how very lucky we all are to be here to greet its first appearance.