Hugh Howey debuted with a big splash as a science fiction writer with the publication of Wool. This three-part dystopian novel (really, a novella plus two full-length books) tells the tale of the Silo, an underground city of several thousand future Americans that descends through 144 stories into the earth. Shift — the three books that together constitute the prequel to Wool — carries readers from the mid-21st century for several hundred years until its central character is about to cross paths with the principal actor in the future world portrayed in Wool. Along the way readers learn the grim explanation for the origin of the Silo.
The tale begins in 2049. Donald Keene is a freshman Congressman elected from Georgia with the help of “the great Senator Thurman.” As a freshman, he finds himself at loose ends as he casts about for meaningful work when the Senator recruits him for a top-secret job that engages his background as an architect. We soon learn that Keene, now happily married, was once engaged to the Senator’s daughter. Predictably, this inconvenient fact will complicate the story and loom large down the line. But the complications emerge slowly, building suspense all the while.
Shift is dystopian fiction with a twist — several twists, really. Its strength lies in Howey’s cleverly imagined underground world. The writing style is unexciting, the characters not fully fleshed out. But the world of the Silo, and the backstory in this prequel, are bound to fascinate any fan of science fiction. After nearly a century and a half of SF, it’s tough to come up with something new. The world of the Silo is new.
Shift, Omnibus Edition (Shift Trilogy #1-3) by Hugh Howey ★★★★☆
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