Shift (Wool #6-8)
Random House AU
Copy courtesy the publisher via NetGalley
SHIFT is the sequel to the self-publishing success that was WOOL but it isn’t about what happened after – this takes us back to the origins of the silos and how they came to be…and why.
Donald is a young Congressman in a time less than 50 years away from now. He owes much of his election to a powerful Senator and when the Senator calls him in for a meeting, Donald is surprised to be asked to be part of a top secret project. An architect before he went into politics, the Senator wants him to design something special – a facility that could house thousands of people in the event of an incident. Nanotechnology is fast becoming a reality and humanity could be wiped out by an enemy they can’t even see. Donald designs a silo comprising of almost 150 levels thinking it to merely be a occupational health and safety feature to get the entire facility passed off on. It’s all too late when Donald realises what he was been working on. And what it will cost him.
The second part of the novel introduces us to Mission Jones, a young porter in one of the silos and begins to give an insight into just what causes the uprisings that seem to crop up each generation or two. And it’s not always the loud, brash characters that can whisper in ears and begin to sew the seeds of discontent. Sometimes it’s the most unlikely of characters.
The third and final part takes the reader back to the origins of one of the characters from WOOL, Jimmy, aka Solo. The son of an IT worker, Jimmy is caught up in one of the famous uprisings and is secluded into safety by his father. He spends many years in isolation, living off tinned food and making do when the toilets stop working. He has only a cat for company as he sits in his confinement, hearing the whispers of the radio equipment.
The conclusion of this third part brings us into line with the conclusion of WOOL from the point of view of another silo and set us up for the third part in the trilogy, DUST.
When I read WOOL a couple of months ago, I was captivated and I always wanted to know more, how the silos came about and why. Hugh Howey grants my wish in this next installment of the series which takes us back to the before – when life was much more like as we recognise it now. Donald is quite a sympathetic character throughout the novel, he is still young enough and green enough to be idealistic. He cares a lot about his wife and ends up torn between her and his new project. He wants nothing more than to be with her and finds himself ripped apart from her due to the manipulations of others when those chosen go into the silos. It isn’t until some time in the future (after being cryogenically frozen and thawed several times – those in charge in Silo 1 work in “shifts” of about 6 months and are then put into slumber for many years, ensuring that any time there are incidents in any of the silos, it can be dealt with by someone in the know) that Donald seriously comes to grips with what he has done and what has also been done to him.
My feelings about SHIFT are more mixed than they were about WOOL. I love that we got an explanation, but I don’t particularly love what the explanation was. To be honest, some parts of it were a little hard to grasp about the nanotechnology and invisible enemies and wiping out the planet before someone else did. It felt a bit forced, a bit too ‘we are not evil because we got in first’. I found a lot of the characters abhorrent and Donald a bit spineless – not all of it was his fault, the silo residents are drugged to forget their pasts but Donald has a tendency to remember. However his memory is slow at times and hazy so he isn’t as aggressive and as assertive as he should be, except at the end where he acts out of rage, relatively hastily, and destroys his chance to get answers.
I also feel that the book is a bit too long, especially the third and final section which revolves around Jimmy/Solo. While it was good to get his background in a bit more detail, Howey takes this overboard and gives us far too much detail. When a book should be working towards a powerful conclusion, it shouldn’t be getting a reader bogged down in minute detail and unpleasantness (and there’s rather a lot in this section that is unpleasant). The ending felt very anti-climactic for me, almost like it fizzled out a bit. There were some good reveals and Donald did some things that I didn’t expect but it meant that once again, I was left with questions but no answers. However it does set the story up to be rather interesting with the third and final volume where no doubt we will see Juliette and Lucas again.
All in all, SHIFT is a little bit of a mixed bag – on one hand it’s rather satisfying to go back in time and be given a why, but I have to say there was definitely a skimping on the how. Even Donald wasn’t aware they’d built 50 of his designs! However the book does lag in a few sections and drag out and because we’re treated to several scenes of rebelliousness in silos, it can also feel a bit repetitive. However there’s enough good, core story to have me quite looking forward to the final installment.
Book #106 of 2013