Shift by Hugh Howey [Book Review]

Shift by Hugh Howey Silo Series

Shift by Hugh Howey is an excellent prequel book to Wool, the first book in the series that details a world that’s been reduced to a dangerous wasteland that no one can survive.  People are confined to underground silos and are humanity’s last hope.  Of course there’s a dark conspiracy from the past that threatens to kill just about everybody if not discovered.  

This book serves to introduce you to the world before the disaster and the people who were the cause of it.  It does a fine job too.  Even if you never read Wool you won’t be disappointed with Shift either.  

The Good

The Characters:  They are deep and complex.  They are full of failings.  The main point of view character Donald Keene is a man who wants to do good but ends up being the architect of humanity’s demise.  

He’s a man who loves his wife and builds the silos on the orders of Senator Thurman.  There’s a complex game going on between Thurman (Thaw Man), Donald and Anna (Thurman’s daughter).  Donald is played for the naive fool that he is in more ways than one and loses everything he cherished.  

Much of the story is devoted to the time before the apocalypse and after.  You see how Donald, Anna and the Thaw Man change.  Donald is guilty, Anna wants to do the right thing (after screwing Donald over) and the Thaw Man is more ruthless than ever.  

In Book 8, Pact, you get the full re-telling of Solo’s back story (Julie’s friend in the last part of Wool).  It was a nice touch to be sure even if Solo wasn’t the most interesting character to me.  

The Plot:  The story’s before and after timeline set up does a good job of explaining the past through action and staying in the present.  Much of Book 6 deals with the before timeline while Book 7 and Book 8 deal with what happens in the present before the events of Wool (Books 1-3).  

It’s a dark, gritty post-apocalyptic world where people die in tragic ways and for sad reasons.  Rebellions happen.  The status quo quashes them.

Entire silos vanish.  It repeats.

All the while Hugh unravels the true purpose and conspiracy behind the silos.  

The World:  Hugh does a great job of giving you enough detail to understand life in the Silo even if you never read Wool.  You can imagine the porters climbing the central spiral stairs, passing through hundreds of levels to get to the top.  You see the farmers growing their food underground under extremely hot sun lamps.  

You learn about the culture and the way people act in such confined situations that the silos present.

The Bad

I found little if anything to dislike about this prequel.  It filled in the gaps about the world’s history that wasn’t or couldn’t be explained in Wool.  I thought it might be the typical nuclear war before but it turned out to be something else entirely.  

I won’t spoil the surprise for you.

The Verdict

Shift is an excellent prequel book to Wool.  If you like deep characters, conspiracies and survival in a post-apocalyptic silo then you can’t go wrong reading this.  You’ll find yourself wondering what happens next as you turn the pages and ask, “Will they ever figure out what’s really going on?”  

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Author, copywriter and fiction writer. Creator of the Solid State Sigma series. Currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in the Beaches, East York.

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