The Silo Trilogy, Hugh Howey

Disclaimer: I’m reviewing all three books of the trilogy (Wool, Shift, Dust) in one post, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers but it’s possible that the odd thing may slip out. Read on at your own risk…

The Silo trilogy spans a 400 year time period starting around 100 years from now in a world that is very different from our own. The entire world has been condensed down so that only a few people remain, people who live in a rigidly structured society within a massive underground silo. The world we know is destroyed, to go outside would mean almost instant death and to even speak of doing so is to consign yourself to that fate.

WoolThe trilogy begins in Wool, a book I’d seen floating around, copies on the tube, reviews on Goodreads and so on but I hadn’t really been tempted by. But then a friend lent me her copy as I mentioned something about it and she had just finished reading it so I promised I’d give it a go.

To be honest, I wasn’t impressed. The story launches in somewhat, giving me as a the reader the feeling that I’d walked in on the middle of a conversation and didn’t have a clue what was going on. I suspect the point of this technique is to grab my attention and pique my curiosity (who is this Holston? Why is he going to die? etc. etc.), but I’m afraid what it actually does is put me off (you don’t want to tell me what’s going on? Fine, I don’t care anyway.).  But I persevered and although it was slow going to start – a lot of stair climbing and unrealised love between two individuals I didn’t particularly care for – it did manage to intrigue me. I couldn’t quite get my head around this silo they all lived in, what ‘cleaning’ was and what on earth had happened to the world outside.

So I kept reading but it wasn’t until roughly halfway through that it really grabbed me. Jules, our hero, hadn’t made a huge impression on me, I found her rather too predictable and a bit of a hero stereotype, but when Solo was introduced I felt the whole book changed. His was an entirely different story and I loved getting to know him and teasing out his history.

And then, just as it was getting really good, Wool ended! I was furious! Especially because I was aware that for the next installment we would be going back in time to find out how it all started. Yes I’d get the answers that by now I really wanted, but how long would it be before I would find out what happened to Jules and Solo and all the rest of the characters I’d just started caring about?!

Well happily lot too long as the same friend was able to lend me both Shift and Dust so at least I didn’t have to hold on until I found my own copies. (And after reading this review by Buffy, I was glad I didn’t have to wait too long!)

ShiftSo, book II. Shift alternates between two timeframes for the first part of the book – following Donald in 2049 and Troy in 2110. Troy is confined to a silo whereas Donald is a member of the pre-silo world and their paths zigzag across the chapters.

I wasn’t expecting to like Shift, I find the whole prequel thing kind of annoying but actually I think this was a really clever way of doing things. If I hadn’t already visited the silo and built up a curiosity about it, I might have lost patience with the political wranglings of this second book and I think the whole thing may have made less sense. As it was I already knew what direction things were headed in and I really enjoyed seeing them unwind.

Troy confused me somewhat although seeing his eyes slowly open to the world around him was a nice touch, but it was Donald who I really came to care for. Here was a man who was blindly led into an awful world, whose innocence and naivety were his undoing but who managed to keep fighting, even once it seemed like it was too late. I think he went on a harder journey than any of the other characters and I enjoyed travelling that road with him.

It was also nice to get a sense of background to some of the other characters from Wool and there were some fun moments of ‘oh, I know who that is!’ And Mission’s story damn near broke my heart.

All in all this was by far my favourite book of the trilogy and it left me with big hopes for Dust, the concluding chapter.

Alas I feel that it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

DustDust picks up from the end of Wool and I think it might have helped if I’d gone back and re-read the last chapter of the first book before starting this one as I was slightly confused as to how much I’d forgotten happening and how much had happened in my absence.

For the final volume Dust is surprisingly thin and I can’t help thinking that it could have used a bit more padding (not a common complaint!). There seemed to be less story-telling than in the other books and what there was started to feel repetitive. By now I knew how the silo came to be and I knew how the various characters played their parts, there was no need for this to be reiterated every five pages. And I did lose patience with some of the politics, I’m not sure the reason for the destruction ever became entirely clear.

Having said that, there’s no doubt that the ending brought a smile to my face and my immediate feelings after completing the trilogy were incredibly positive. It’s only looking back now that all the negatives come to light.

So it’s a lukewarm review when all said and done but Shift stands out as being a brilliant piece of work sadly bookended by two weaker volumes but don’t let me stop you, I’d still recommend reading the trilogy if you’re into the dystopian mystery vibe!

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3 responses to “The Silo Trilogy, Hugh Howey

  1. I still haven’t read Dust yet. I’m working towards it. It’s interesting to know what you thought of them, though. 🙂

    • I definitely liked the way Dust rounded everything off and actually I think I might have been a bit harsh on it in this review. Part of the problem is that I never warmed to Juliette so her stories tended to leave me a bit flat. Having said that I did like Donald’s part of the story and the ending was pretty great. I can’t wait to see what you make of it (no pressure… 😉 )

  2. Pingback: Obligatory end of year post | Books on the Tube

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