Book Review – Shift by Hugh Howey

This is a book review for Shift (Wool Trilogy book 2) by Hugh Howey, available here:

5* glorious and terrifying stars.

I’m so glad to report that I am continuing my love affair with this series. The first book, Wool, was so intense and involved that I had to take a couple of months break before reading Shift. I needn’t have bothered though. Shift is a very different book, both in style and intensity, and it does credit to the author that he could write two such different books and I could love them both equally.

This book was not without faults – some of the science seemed a little ropey. If a person was cryogenically frozen, wounds wouldn’t heal during the freezing stage, they’d heal during the awakening when the nanobots are introduced. That said, the scope and vision of this series is such that you can easily forgive the odd niggle here and there.

Whereas Wool was set in one silo, following one cast of characters, Shift follows several different characters across different silos and across a massive timescale, several hundred years I think. At first I found this confusing because I wasn’t taking note of the dates and the book was leaping around by a century or more at a time, so I would advise any reader to take note of the dates under each chapter heading.

This book is about the creation of the silos, the why and how of it and how people came to be in them in the first place. It was creepy, breathtaking in its destruction and permanence, and yet somehow so…human…all at once. A consortium of men decided to end the world before anyone else could, so that they could decide who got to survive and who didn’t. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a twist towards the end of the book that left me reeling.

Again, the characters are absorbing and easy to get emotionally involved with – you wonder how Donald could be so stupid not to see what was coming, although in fairness to his character we, the reader, have already seen the future. You feel desperately for Jimmy/Solo as he tries to survive the absolute destruction of his world when he’s just a little boy. To a certain extent, you even feel deep compassion for Anna, who is as much a victim of her father’s ambitions as anyone else and who tries to do the right thing but doesn’t explain it well enough to save herself. It’s a credit to Howey’s writing style that you get a sense of the scale of the story just through the sometimes basic lives of those living it. Sounds like a crazy thing to say, but not every writer manages to do it so artfully.

It seems silly to compare it to Michael Crichton, because I don’t think he ever wrote anything of this scale, but that’s what it reminded me of at times – Crichton at his very, very finest. I’m still blown away by the whole concept of the silos and the future that Howey has woven. I was intrigued by the little corner of Silo 40 and how they’ve influenced the ones around them. You can’t help but try and find meaning in the events – did Silo 17 fail to destruct because Silo 40 hacked it and deactivated the destruct sequence?

I can’t wait to read the third book, Dust. I’m going to go and download it right now!

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