Spoiler warning: If you haven’t read Wool or Shift yet this review reveals a large part of the plot so be warned!
I loved Wool. The story arc, the characters, the twists and turns. Hell, I was actually starting to feel at home in the Silos, imagining the sights and smells, wondering how I would fare if I woke up tomorrow morning there, what job I would take, all the while following Juliette’s thrilling journey to the outside and back. It left me gasping for more, something a book hasn’t done in a long, long time. The series has been hugely successful to date and has generated so much interest it even caught the eye of movie director Ridley Scott who bought the movie rights.
What also intrigued me was that Hugh Howey was a self-published author, something which, up to that time I had never really delved in to and this in turn opened new doors to other fantastic authors.
When I began to read book two Shift, I quickly realised it was a prequel of sorts and I was going to have to wait a while before I could rejoin Juliette & Co. – it didn’t matter. Shift was equally thrilling and answered so many questions while introducing some essential characters and reinforcing some existing ones. The backstory was essential, and made the long wait for Dust, the final instalment in the series totally worthwhile.
Dust picks up where Wool ended. Juliette has survived her journey back from Silo 17 and has been appointed Mayor. Far from resting on her laurels she’s got a hell of a lot of work to do, the first being to uncover the huge digging machines found in schematics in Silo 17 and dig through to there to rescue Solo and the children she discovered. She faces many obstacles and fierce opposition from certain members of her own community due to the problems caused by her refusal to clean and the uprising that followed. Dissent is growing within the Silo once again and Juliette is facing a race against time to discover the truth, though this time she has a little more help, including her new beau Lukas (now head of I.T.).
Meanwhile back at Silo 1, Donald has plans of his own. Although Juliette taunts him regularly, his relationship with Lukas is a little more stable and he is now helping him uncover the secrets of the silos through the servers. He is however posing as his former boss Thurman who he has killed and put back in to stasis in his place and it’s only a matter of time before he is discovered. Having woken his sister Charlotte he has enlisted her to work on the drones located in the armory, one of which he has already flown to a seemingly safe area outside. However things take a turn for the worse – for everyone.
Although Dust is written quite differently to the other two books (they being an omnibus of the original short stories) it still fits perfectly in the series and does it’s damnedest to satisfy a reader who has already heavily invested in a story that’s as equally fascinating as it is terrifying, rich in character development, occupying a unique world which will resonate in the literary world for many years to come, and also expand thanks to the phenomenal fan fiction culture it has spawned.
The pace is relentless. If the entire series is a rollercoaster ride, Dust is the white-knuckle section, that part where your photo is taken with a terrified-yet-thrilled expression. We know from chapter one this is a race against time for the people of Silo 18 but we have no clock and no idea how much time is left. Skipping mainly between Silo 1 and 18, the action and tone is quite different between the two, with Silo 1 having a much colder, clinical feel, it’s workers emotionless and without conscience many unaware of the power they ultimately possess or indeed what their own fate will be in Thurman’s dastardly masterplan. Meanwhile in Silo 18 Juliette battles not only the physical and mental scars of her terrifying ordeal, but the rising tensions within her world. Her experience has changed her and she is more focused now than ever. The fate of these people are in her hands and hers alone and they will live or die on the decisions she makes yet she feels a deep need to exact vengeance on Donald and the inhabitants of Silo 1 for what they have done.
The world of the Silos is now more familiar to us as are it’s characters which gives the narrative much more freedom, with a much more cinematic feel than before, much more plot-driven but also much more emotional yet (thankfully) not overly sentimental. There is no safety net, no character we can safely say could not be struck down at any moment in any of the back-breaking twists peppered throughout. We are watching these people’s lives unfold and in many cases, unravel and if you’ve gotten this far without caring what happens to them then you have the hardest of hearts. Howey also expertly tiptoes around the many clichés associated with this genre keeping the proceedings fresh and original, steering this dystopian juggernaut to it’s final thrilling conclusion, which while it seems a little rushed, is ultimately satisfying and serves as not only a fitting end to a deeply engaging and entertaining series but also a literary high-five for the human spirit.
Finally I’d like to thank Hugh for being so gracious as to entrust me with one of the few digital copies available of the book in advance for review and insisting that I be as honest as possible, which I have done. While I am a fan, I’m also a reviewer and this has been one of my toughest to write so far. There are not many mainstream authors who would engage directly with fans and bloggers in such a hands-on and friendly fashion and it’s this fresh attitude that has helped to make Hugh Howey the success he is and will continue to be.
Now, let’s get Ridley Scott to make this movie!