Big picture of a shrunken, sunken world
By Hugh Howey Arrow, 408pp, $29.95
AMERICAN writer Hugh Howey leapt from the world of self-publishing to international success with his first book, Wool, which sold 200,000 copies online through word of mouth before being bought by Random House after a five-way auction.
Wool was followed soon after by Shift, and the trilogy now comes to a close in Dust. All three books concern a post-apocalyptic world in which the remnants of humanity live underground in giant silos.
The first book had a narrow focus on life in silo 18 and only hinted at what lay outside. The second book exposed the grand plans of those who had reduced humanity to life underground. But many questions remained unanswered. Could people escape the silos? What would they find outside? And what would be the fate of those who nearly committed global genocide so as to engineer a new destiny for humanity?
Dust answers all these questions and more. Howey has managed to assemble a logical and compelling conclusion from the hints and mysteries of the earlier books and in doing so he has produced a fitting end to a wildly successful series.
The focus of Dust is Juliette, the heroine of the first novel. Now the mayor of silo 18, she hopes to liberate her people from their bunker and from the mental strictures imposed by their closeted life and system of taboos.
Juliette is capable and driven but is also naive, and blunders into one error after another. She leads her silo but is no politician. She lacks patience and pragmatism and underestimates both people’s capacity for wilful blindness and the ruthlessness of her opponents.
The outcome is catastrophic and it is unclear whether she or any of her dreams will survive.
The story alternates between Juliette’s silo and silo 1, which houses the machines and people that control her life and that of the other silos. Silo 1 is the subject of a power struggle between those who want to see Juliette make her own choices and those who want to see her crushed in the name of fulfilling the designs of those who devastated the earth.
The result is great hardships and bitter defeats. Indeed, Dust has an air of desperation as the forces of liberation suffer one rebuff after another. At several points, it whether humanity is headed for or rebirth.
As these battles play out, the remaining secrets of the world are unravelled. Howey does not leave the reader guessing but provides a rapid rate of explanations as fastpaced as the plot itself. What began as a microscopic perspective on his world in Wool becomes a panoramic vision in Dust.
The author brings the story home in a way that enables the three books to coalesce in a satisfying story arc. Together, they display Howey’s exceptional talents for characterisation and world-building. The series will linger long in the memory for its vivid portrayals of a cloistered and regimented form of life underground, and for its sharply drawn characters.
The result is a trilogy that is one of the best post-apocalyptic works of recent years, one certainly on par with Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games series. And although the silo series is complete, it will live on in other forms: Howey plans a graphic novel version, and a film of Wool is under development with 20th Century Fox.
True to his roots, Howey also has agreed to take part in Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program, a means by which aspiring authors are licensed to use the intellectual property of others. It is unclear extinction