Big pic­ture of a shrunken, sunken world

Dust

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Ge­orge Wil­liams

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

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