Review: Shift; Hugh Howey

“The history of the silo is about to be written. Our future is about to begin…” (4.5 stars) 

Source- borrowed from a friend

Published 25th April 2013 by Century

I read the hardback edition which is 569 pages 

I was a bit tentative beginning this book, wary in case it suffered from the dreaded ‘Second Book Syndrome’ (SBS) because to say that I adored its predecessor is something of an understatement. Wool, set in a dystopian future where people reside in a community in an underground silo was mind-blowingly different and just amazing all-round. 

You can read my incredibly gushy review of book one here as a matter of fact. 

Luckily, SBS didn’t come into effect here, which is a good thing as my expectations around this novel were pretty high. Shift was another stellar read that I couldn’t put down. This is as ever a spoiler-free review though (regarding both books), just in case readers haven’t read Wool yet but are intending to get around to it (and I suggest you do, pronto!)- as I would hate to inadvertently ruin the plot for anyone. 

So, though this is Wool’s sequel, it is actually the prequel. Confused? 

I thought I would be too, but this book shows the history leading right up to the events of what took place in book one and answers a lot of questions for the reader about the origins of the silo and how it all came to be. It does an amazing job in doing so too, tying events and characters together remarkably well, the jumps back and forth in time (almost 300 years in fact) and between locations, not at all jarring in their frequency. I had expected to be a bit frustrated that after the somewhat gripping ending of Wool, the story didn’t pick up right from there, but I wasn’t and quickly became immersed in this novel. 

Shift is initially set fifty years from the present day, in a world not too dissimilar from ours; only something earth-shattering lies ahead and a few people have not only the knowledge of knowing exactly what is coming, but realise that they need to prepare for it and protect mankind.  This is what results in the creation of the silo. In parallel story threads, we then jump centuries into the future and see the impact that the architecture of the silo has had, not only on its creators, but also its inhabitants.   

In Shift, the reader is introduced to some brand new protagonists as well as some brilliantly creative ideas and shocking revelations. Though the pace is admittedly a bit slower than Wool, just when you think you understand in what direction the plot is headed, new twists and turns are thrown in, with lots of conflict wrought as a consequence. This book becomes emotional at times too, with some interesting moral dilemmas throughout. Characters who appear to be villainous initially or who seem to have their own agendas aren’t necessarily so black and white, whereas some who are portrayed as pure and innocent might not be; it all depends on the readers own viewpoint and as to how they perceive the silo itself. I found that was not at all the case in book one, as it was clear from the outset who was the good guy (or girl!), so this was an interesting new spin on the narrative and certainly made me think. I was particularly conflicted about the main protagonist in this book and his actions and am interested to see if this continues to be the case in the next novel.

I think for me, the only potential downside of Shift as opposed to its prequel was that the character building wasn’t quite as strong and it became more focused on politics, rather than maintaining those finer details about the people we were reading. On one level (boom boom) that makes sense: the protagonists here are confused, some have lost their memories and the book jumps back and forth in time (a lot), so this book cannot be expected to have the same depth that characters did in Wool. However, to me, this only reinforced the brilliance of the main protagonist, Jules, from book one; a relatable and engaging person whose feistiness and bravery really gave that plot its gravitas and a person I became really invested in. I don’t think that there were any here who held my attention in the same way she did, unfortunately. 

Sometimes bleak, but always brilliantly compelling, Shift is a chilling look into a frighteningly realistic future and disturbing facets of humanity. Those readers wanting to know the who’s, what’s and the whys will hopefully find enough of their questions answered to continue onto book three. As for me, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where the author takes this amazingly innovative world of his next and how he will move the silo even further into the future. I can’t wait for part three (‘Dust’) to be released in the UK in the autumn.

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3 responses to “Review: Shift; Hugh Howey

  1. Pingback: June Reading Analysis | my good bookshelf·

  2. Pingback: A 2013 Reading Analysis: my favourite books of the year | my good bookshelf·

  3. Pingback: Review: Dust; Hugh Howey | my good bookshelf·

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