Review: Dust; Hugh Howey

A bit of a disappointing finale in an otherwise brilliant series (3.5 stars)

Source- personal copy

First published in October 2013 by Century.

I read the Kindle edition. The paperback is 464 pages. 

I positively adored this dystopian series by Hugh Howey, which began with the utterly epic Wool, followed up by the equally brilliant Shift and which now concludes with Dust. In fact, Wool and Shift were two of my favourite reads last year and I was just as confident that Dust would make my list in 2014. 

Unfortunately, that won’t be the case. Whilst I enjoyed the book and it offered a solid, worthy conclusion to the trilogy, for me it wasn’t as strongly written as its predecessors and the action, which was abundant in books one and two, seemed pretty lacking this time around. This book seems to take forever to lay down all of the background and tie together the back-stories of all its (numerable) characters and for me, didn’t appear to really get going until at least 50% of the way through. I admit that this slow-burning read actually let me feeling pretty flat instead of captivating me like I had anticipated. It also provoked a few more questions than answers. 

I really hate it when the last book in a series goes out with more of a whimper than a bang. 

Anyway, this books starts (pretty seamlessly infact) right from where Shift ended. On that basis alone, it is certainly worth reading these books in their intended order as not only will this avoid the MAJOR confusion that is sure to occur if you pick this series up and start right at the third book, but also because it would be such a shame to miss out on any of the fabulous world that Howey has created up until this point. 

I will endeavour to make this a spoiler free review for all books in the series; however this summary (taken from Goodreads) vaguely alludes to some past events, so please proceed from this point on with caution…! 

“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 imagine that the summary may confuse people who are not familiar with the premise of the series. Basically the novels are set in a future where mankind has been forced to retreat underground. Thousands of people live within communities in underground silos, though the reasons as to why this has been brought about are pretty vague for the most part, though finally some answers seem to be emerging… 

There were some aspects I genuinely loved about this book: the incredible descriptions of life within the silo and the heightened sense of claustrophobia that Howey manages to evoke throughout the narrative, throughout the whole series infact. This time around perhaps even more so than on the past two occaisions, there is a strong sense of distrust towards Juliette (Jules) and a real feeling of paranoia from the underground community. As a reader you can feel the shifting attitudes and tensions seeping throughout the levels of the silo and sense the unrest bubbling. 

Howey also does a great job in making the reader feel uncertain as to who is a villain or not. Like Juliette, you find yourselves questioning characters motives and wondering who is trustworthy or not right throughout the book. 

In terms of the characters themselves, up until this point I really admired Juliette and was rooting for her and hoped she attain her ultimate goal- that of finding out why the silos were created and of escaping into the real world. She seemed capable and a worthy leader of the silo. Secondary characters too, were strongly written, especially Solo/Jimmy, Juliette’s friend and confidante. In Dust however, Juliette seems to have lost her strength and her grip on what is really happening as a result of her not knowing who to trust and being fed conflicting information. She is constantly distracted and her only real aim seems to be to try and get out of the silo, despite what problems this may cause for everyone else. She is reckless and actually quite selfish. Her bond with Solo is still there, which was one of the strongest points in book two, only this time they are kept apart for the majority of the novel. This for me was a bit of a negative as their friendship was one of the only things that seemed to make sense to both of these people in a changing world. 

There are a couple of random story arcs in this time around which I didn’t especially like too. Religion comes into play more than once and there was a disturbing scene involving older males and younger women (and girls) that just seemed a bit out of the blue and sort of tacky. It was also a thread that wasn’t really resolved and I just couldn’t see the point in it. It’s safe to say that it left me feeling a bit ‘icky’ all in all. 

I also felt a bit emotionally… hmmm…manipulated perhaps, by a couple of scenes in Dust. Though this hasn’t been the case in the other two books, this time around there are some tough decisions to be made that can only result in heartbreak for those involved, so make sure you have a box of tissues handy. There’s also a not-so-subtle nod to ‘Armageddon’ at the end of the book. Seriously, it would not have surprised me if Bruce Willis himself had appeared in the silo at that point… 

Ah. The ending. Without giving away any spoilers, the ending was… predictable. It ended the way I had expected it to, for Juliette and her friends at least. That being said, whilst we found out the outcome for some characters, this was not the case for all of them. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose, but I wanted to know more. Then again, this sense of uncertainty has been prevalent through the series, so it makes sense that Howey would continue it to the very end. 

Though I really enjoyed this book and was glad to read it to see how the series ended, like I said, I did feel somewhat let down by it at least fifty percent of the time. That aside perhaps that could be because I waited for a few months interval before picking it up after finishing Shift. Maybe if I had read all three books back to back I would have liked it a bit more. In fact, that is possibly an avenue I will consider revisiting in future, to see if re-reading consecutively makes a difference to my enjoyment. Needless to say, my mum is a big fan of novels like this, so I have bought her the set for Mother’s Day and am keen to see what she thinks of them! 

If you enjoy dystopian fiction then the Silo books are certainly an incredible world to get lost in. Tightly plotted and full of twists, turns and superbly memorable characters, I really think that these novels would make spectacular films, sort of reminiscent ofCity of Ember. If you enjoyed the darkly disturbing worlds created amidst The Hunger Games or The Passage then you just may find yourself appreciating the compelling strangeness of the Wool universe too.

 

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