"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift (Silo #2) by Hugh Howey

 In Wool, HH introduces us to a dystopian world where the survivors of the apocalypse are living in an underground bunker called a Silo. These survivors live in fear of the outside world which no longer supports life, even though they've been down there so long they no longer remember their own origin story. The seeds of doubt are sewn in Wool, as the main characters start to realize they've been lied to all along; leading to revolutions and revelations.

Shift is the totally creep-tastic sequel/prequel to Wool. The story starts before the construction of the Silos, introducing new and devious characters. Senator Thurman who'll save the world as he wants it to be, however he can, and his daughter Anna Thurman, who'll do whatever it takes to get what she wants. Donald Keene, a politician/architect who is asked onto a special classified project, and his wife Helen, who fears that the project is driving her husband insane. This is the story of how the world ends, who ended it, and who will become the inhabitants of Silo 1: those responsible for the welfare of all other Silos. As these new characters make the move from above ground to below, this story becomes interwoven with two other story lines.

We also see the an earlier uprising inside of Silo 18, before the story of Juliette and Holston as seen in Wool. Here we meet Mission, a young Porter trying to forget the farm he grew up on and the tragic circumstances of his birth. Mission has a lot to worry about; the levels of the Silo are trying to become independent from one another and the revolution is threatening to pull him under. This story from Silo 18 is a cautionary tale of community failure and human nature as much as it is an example of how far Silo 1 is willing to go to protect the truth...Although given the contents of Wool, I can't say it was as surprising as it was heartbreaking.

We also see how a young boy named Jimmy became Solo, the lone survivor of the mass exodus from Silo 17. The distress involved in seeing a child lose everything he loves and teach himself how to shoot a gun at another human being is overwhelming.  Then seeing the years pass by that child, his body growing even as his mind stops at the age where he lost it all. Watching him cling to sanity and hope in a world where there is none. A recurring theme throughout the book, is time as a burden, a curse. Easily illustrated by a community trapped within walls, more so by a child left alone.

But the story inevitably comes back to Donald. In Silo 1 everything is different. The men work in shifts and the women are left to sleep in cryotanks. At the end of a shift the men are sent back to the storage pods to sleep for a few decades and and a new shift is woken. And Donald, a pawn in a mad man's game, is searching for the truth. The truth about what he did, what others did to him. He's trying to find out the plan for the future of the Silos. And he finds himself growing more powerful with each piece of information.

I won't lie; I think this story lacked the suspense that was shown in Wool. Part of that is because we already have a vague idea of what happened. Learning the specifics doesn't make what happened more surprising, just more depressing. I also think Hugh Howey dangled a carrot in front of us, by mentioning the mysterious Silo 40, but failing to give us a fourth plot-line to tell us what happened to Silo 40. Maybe he meant for the readers to draw their own conclusions, but there wasn't quite enough substance for that... And as soon as Silo 40 is on our minds it appears to be off of his.

I did love how easy the three plot-lines felt, running together. I love a good play on the concept of time, even though this particular concept was a bit morbid: Nobody really feels they deserve the time they've been given and there's always too much or not enough. I enjoyed seeing the betrayals and the corruption in the beginning and throughout the core of Silo 1 (politicians will be politicians!). Something tells me Hugh Howey isn't a big fan of his government (or maybe I'm projecting, lol).

Even though it wasn't as action-driven as the first installment and I do think the suspense could have been pushed a little further, I really enjoyed this story.

Rating: 4/5

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