Shift by Hugh Howey
In Shift, part two of Hugh Howey‘s Silo Series, we see how the silos came together and get some added backstory for events that happened in Wool. I’m torn about this novel, because although parts of the story are gripping, there are also incredibly boring sections.
Howey tries to continue to surprise the reader, but it mostly comes across as forced. The narrators for the first section are Donald, a freshman congressman, and Troy, a guy in charge of Silo 1. The whole construction of the silos and Donny’s involvement just seemed too far-fetched. I can suspend my disbelief, but this had a B-movie quality to it. A rogue senator, who is the most powerful man in American, builds this complex project disguised as a nuclear waste facility with just a few people in on it. There’s only so many times lines like, “why do you think the government spends $1,000 on a hammer” work. The characters and the premise don’t work. The characters are a little too flat, there’s a garish quality to them like brightly colored super villains, whose spandex costumes stand stark against a generic backdrop.
So why did I keep reading and why did I order the third book, Dust?
There’s a time and place for B movies. The third book will continue after the events of Wool. And, as I said earlier, there are aspects of this story I enjoyed.
Every chapter that takes place in Silo 1 is interesting. That’s where the story lies in this novel. Silo 1 is unlike the other 49 silos. Silo 1 watches over them all. The people in Silo 1 remember the past and use cryogenics to take a six-month “shift” and then sleep for 100 years. We see them trying to save silos from chaos and destruction. We see them decide to “pull the plug” on a silo and kill thousands of people. We see them deal with events from Wool.
In the second and third sections the narrative switches to silos 18 and 17. At this point, life in the silos isn’t new to the reader. The characters aren’t important, the story isn’t interesting, and for silo 17 it’s just backstory for the character known as Solo in Wool. We don’t need his backstory, beyond what we got in Wool.
Howey does manage a couple of surprises at the end of the novel and I appreciated those twists. Overall, it felt like Shift was in serious need of an editor. The larger story is interesting, but the writing is workmanlike, it gets the job done, but there’s no richness to the language.