& Reviews: Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust by Hugh Howey. Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: CreateSpace. August 2013.

Dust by Hugh Howey. Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: CreateSpace. August 2013.

The Book Itself: This simple, graphic cover brings to mind the barren, undesirable landscape outside of the silos. It looks pretty damn ominous to me, a good final note to end a dystopian series on.

My Review: In a time when secrets and lies were the foundations of life, someone has discovered the truth. And they are going to tell.

Jules knows what her predecessors created. She knows they are the reason life has to be lived in this way.

And she won’t stand for it.

But Jules no longer has supporters. And there is far more to fear than the toxic world beyond her walls.

A poison is growing from within Silo 18.

One that cannot be stopped.

Unless Silo 1 step in

I followed up Shift, Hugh Howey’s self-published sequel to his very well-done omnibus Wool, with this novel so that I could really read the series from start to finish and get my impressions of it as a whole.

My impression? The first book is by far the best.

Dust picks up where Wool left off, with Juliet now the major of her silo, Donald causing trouble/generally going nuts over in Silo 1, and Solo/Jimmy worrying about being around people again over in his own silo. His concerns eventually become moot point because Juliet is just going to drill over there anyway, and all the worlds collide.

This book tries to pick up the action from Shift, and in doing so, several things get lost in the shuffle.

First, good old Donald. I never connected with Donald in Shift and I don’t feel any closer to him now. He makes even more stupid decisions, is basically haunted by his former boss, and never really redeems himself from being an emotional wreck. We meet his sister, Charlotte. Her main purpose in the story is to worry about her brother and put her background in mechanical skills to work finding out more about the world beyond the silos. I don’t feel overly connected to her either.

Several promising plot points are abandoned, whether from the series’ previous installments or Dust creating stories of its own. There is an extremely confusing side story about Elise, one of the children living with Solo/Jimmy in Silo 17, and then moving over into Silo 18.

Semi-spoiler alert here, folks. But the side story goes nowhere so I do not think you would be hurt for reading about it. For no apparent reason, the church that sets up shop in Silo 17 decides to kidnap Elise and marry her off to a grown man against her will or understanding. It is very unclear why they think marrying children is a sold plan for a future in a new silo. Is every adult going to marry multiple children, and thus (really grossly) repopulate the silo with dozens more new children? There is no indication of the church really having much of a presence in either of the other books. In fact, I am only really made aware of the church’s existence in the beginning of Dust, when Juliet talks to a priest about her unpopular decisions to drill beneath the silos. So why spend a brief handful of pages on this creepy set up when it ultimately serves no conclusion or purpose? Jimmy gets Elise back, they move on, and no one from the church comes after them. If the entire purpose was to show just how low people could sink in the wake of destruction, it is not done very clearly or, I think, effectively.

The ending tries to put too positive an ending on a tragic (and not yet finished!) story. We do not know the definitive fate of anyone other than the handful of people interacting at the end of the story. Did silos that fell in this book truly fall? And what about every other silo out there? It feels less like a conclusion rounding out a series and more like a to-be-continued, lets-leave-things-open ending. Not what I was expecting, and rather disappointing to a series that started off so strong for me. I did like this last story better than the second installment, simply for the return of characters I loved from Wool and the breakneck pace. But the plot lines for this Silo Saga still seem overall a little wobbly to me.

My Grade: C

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& Reviews: Shift by High Howey

Shift by Hugh Howey. Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books. January 2013

Shift by Hugh Howey. Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books. January 2013

The Book Itself: This version of this series covers does a great job of keeping it simple and graphic while also staying true to the story. Wool had an ashy, molten look, probably hearkening to the flames that cleanse the airlock leading to the outside world. In this one, workers are frozen and woken up in shifts over the course of hundreds of years. The cracked, icy feel of the cover reflects that nicely.

My Review: In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platforms that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate. In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event. At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened. This is the second volume in the New York Times best-selling Wool series

I read Wool a few years ago (and re-read it before continuing the series this time around) and fell a little in book-love with the world. Humans mess everything up, and are now forced to live in silos beneath the ground. Conspiracies run deep and one’s entire life is relegated to how many flights of stairs one can bear to climb. I thought the concept was imaginative and well done, and I truly liked the characters.

Shift is a prequel/sequel to Wool, and it tries to fill in the gaps of some of the character’s actions and plot events from Wool. It tries to turn back the clock and reveal how the silos came to be, and why some of the flaws we saw in the system in the first book are really much more serious than we thought.

Unfortunately, Shift really feels like it falls into the sophomore slump of book series: the second book feels like a bridge (sometimes a very flimsy one) between the entrance to the trilogy and its exit. At times it tries too hard to fill in the little gaps in the story. And when it does go into detail about the bigger picture, I am left with too many unanswered questions and head scratches.

We meet Donald. Donald formerly studied architecture and is now trying to make it in the world of politics. He gets into a sticky situation when his boss, a senator, asks him to create a hypothetical silo to house people underground. And we all know how “hypothetical” that turns out to be…

It is difficult to feel sympathetic for Donald. He whines. He pines. He is, in general, a very conflicted man. About everything. While it can be nice to have a character genuinely conflicted about the end of days, and the social/political/societal implications of all of that, you just kind of want to smack him sometimes.

We yo-yo between scenes from the “past” – supposedly modern day America, where Donald is creating silos and remaining completely naïve about why he is doing so  – and scenes from the story’s present – focusing on the silo where Donald is routinely frozen and then re-animated in order to solve issues with other silos. AND THEN we have a few extra side stories thrown in for good measure: Legacy, a teenager in a silo about to go rogue, and Jimmy, more commonly known as Solo, the survivor Juliet meets in the other silo in Wool.

I think Legacy and Jimmy’s stories are attempts at humanizing and backfilling the story of the silos. I bought more into Jimmy’s than I did Legacy’s. Legacy’s story did not further explain what makes silos go rogue. In fact, it only served to confuse me more. Jimmy’s story was a pure going-for-the-heartstrings piece. Somehow Jimmy survives 90% of his silo dying in a mass exodus or killing each other (why the member of this silo suddenly feel the need to leave or murder each other remains forever unclear). The rest of his story goes over his incredibly lonely, terrified existence.

AND THEN THEY BRING IN AN ADORABLE CAT COMPANION AND I FREAKED OUT BECAUSE ANY TIME THEY BRING IN A CUTE FLUFFY ANIMAL, IT IS ONLY SO THEY CAN REACH IN AND RIP OUT YOUR HEART BY MAKING THE CUTE FLUFFY ANIMAL DIE A TERRIBLE DEATH. EVERY TIME THE CAT SHOWED UP IN THE BOOK, I EXPECTED THEM TO KILL IT OFF AND MURDER MY SOUL.

But I digress. Dwelling on Legacy and Jimmy’s stories was sometimes more compelling than whatever Annoying Donald was doing at the time. So while I think the time the story spent on them was a little pandering and maybe…not worth it? Sometimes I liked them better than the main story. Not a good sign, maybe.

My biggest issue is that I had to suspend a lot of disbelief about the circumstances of the silos. For a book that is used essentially to further set up the world of Wool, and to fill in information, I had So. Many. Questions. Many of which would be spoilers if I listed them here. But suffice to say that I still don’t know how they have the materials to even operate the silos (how are they manufacturing the plastic and metal to make all of those suits?!). I don’t know truly why or even how the world became wrecked to the point of needing the silos. And I really don’t understand the method by which silos get X-ed off the map. The answer is literally foggy (which is a pun-y joke if you read Shift…).

So while I still love the world Wool is set in, and I liked moments in Shift, I don’t think this prequel/sequel bridged the gap very thoroughly. I was left with a lot of questions and a lot of new characters I didn’t love as much as I did in the first book.

My Grade: C

& Fridays: Owl Crate April 2016

I celebrated a birthday this March (YAY for one year older!), and a couple of my amazing friends pooled their resources and got me several months to Owl Crate, a Young Adult book subscription box! I received Uppercase Box for Christmas this last year (some of my unboxing posts here and here). And I have been loving that. And this month, my very first Owl Crate and this month’s Uppercase Box arrived within a few days of each other! What a good mail week! (although I get excited when I get a reminder for a dentist appointment in the mail, so I’m probably not a good judge of a good mail week…)

My very first Owl Crate in all of its glory!

My very first Owl Crate in all of its glory!

Both boxes are structured much the same. Owl Crate sends along a new hardcover Young Adult book release, this time with a photocopied note from the author of the book, as well as several book themed mini posters, jewelry, and other paraphernalia.

This month’s Owl Crate book is Flawed by Cecilia Ahern. Description as follows:

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan. But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found flawed. In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where perfection is paramount and flaws lead to punishment. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.

postdystopia2Very dystopian-y, young adult fantasy lite sounding. I thought the author’s name sounded familiar: turns out she wrote both P.S. I Love You and Love, Rosie, which both went on to become movies. This one is probably not one I would reach for on the shelf and then really want to take home based on the description, but that is what these boxes are for, right? Exposing readers to new stuff!

And the book goodies that came with this book just kept going! We have a temporary tattoo and poster of the book, we have a poster with a quote from another dystopian book (The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, which also sounds reallllyyyy interesting…). We have a mini notebook of Orwell’s 1984.

postdystopia6We have a sticker from The Maze Runner series, a magnet featuring the one and only Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, as well as a HG-themed bracelet from @thegeekycauldron (what a wonderful name…). And possibly my favorite thing: a coaster with a quote that’s apparently from the series Shatter Me: “I have spent my life folded between the pages of books.” The coaster is beautiful, and I almost wish it were a magnet instead – I’m not going to put my drinks on this! Maybe I’ll end up gluing a magnet to the back anyway…

So there you have it! My very first Owl Crate. Owl Crates are themed, this month’s having been “Dystopia.” Next month is “Steampunk,” so look out for my review next month!

Just look at that beautiful coaster!

Just look at that beautiful coaster!