Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift is one of my December reads that I’m just catching up to reviewing.  I enjoyed this book – very much actually, but not as much as Wool I have to admit.  It is a good book.  It’s intriguing and thought provoking but for me it suffers a terrible case of ‘excellent first book syndrome’. That being said I really do think you need to read this book.

Shift takes us back to a different time frame.  It has a number of different elements to the story but primarily it’s about answering the whys and wherefores about the silos that we were all gagging to know about after Wool.  The problem of course is that Wool built up an incredible amount of tension, I hadn’t anticipated where it was going and so the reveal was shocking and original.  Now, to go back to the beginning, when all has already been revealed – well, it’s difficult to match that impact, it’s a bit like watching the Star Wars movies – the later three. They’re prequels and they show you about Darth Vader’s beginnings but they don’t tell you anything new in terms of the story.  The fact is, you already know what’s what at this point and everything before is all very nice, but, well, it’s simply not as gripping, is it?  However, having given this some thought, I don’t think that Howie could have written this series the other way around, in a traditional linear fashion, I don’t think it would have had anywhere near the impact if he’d started with Shift and then released Wool.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

So, we go back in time.  We look at how the silos came to exist – and frankly, it’s a bit of a scary story.  We also have a story of Troy, the Chief Controller (sometimes) of Silo No.1.  Silo No.1 doesn’t operate like the others where families, lives out their lives with jobs, school, growing food, etc.  Silo 1 is the HQ.  The Big Brother.  It’s watching the other silos and it has the ability to pull the plug!  Be afraid people.  You may have survived up to now, but, well, don’t let that make you develop a sense of complacency – there is no ‘you made’ it badge, not yet anyway.

On top of this we meet up with Solo.  Actually, if you read Wool you’ve already met him but what you get to see now is a silo in panic and a young boy being hidden away by his parents.  Only his parents don’t return for him and he lives in his hidey hole, in complete isolation.  This does dovetail very nicely with Wool and I enjoyed reading about Solo and his trials and tribulations.  In reality I think it’s difficult to believe that he kept such a grip on normality, but, that being said, did he really keep a grip – just thinking of Wool here!

So, we have Troy who is a conundrum.  Part of the drugged type of workforce created by the new ‘all powerful forgetfulness wonderdrug’.  Except the drug isn’t working quite so effectively on Troy and he’s starting to remember things – remember things that probably should be best left forgotten.  This particular storyline is quite sombre to read.  All the people in the silo live a strange existence, being brought in and out of deep freeze as and when required to work their shift.  There are no women or families in Silo 1 (apparently to stop the men from fighting??)

Basically, there are three timeframes with the three storylines.  In the first, it’s totally scary to watch somebody who seems to be in control and trusted to be the caretaker of the future of humanity.  In the second, we watch a man breaking down as he starts to realise what he’s actually in control of and with the third scenario we get to see the actual effect on one of the innocent bystanders.  For me, this is the beauty of the novel – the differing levels.  It’s not just about jumping backwards and forwards in time but more a display of the effects on the survivors.

In terms of criticisms I personally think it would have been difficult to top the first book.  The Characterisation in Wool is just amazing and you can’t help loving the people and feeling for them with what they’re going through. You don’t really come to the same point with Shift – it’s literally quite difficult to care about some of these characters – and yet, that’s almost the beauty of the writing.  It’s like Howey is proving what he can do as an author.  In book one he sucked us in and made us love the majority of the people.  I mean I really cared about some of those characters and in a strange way was ever so slightly gutted that we weren’t returning to their storyline in the second book!   In this novel it’s difficult to really feel an affinity for any of the characters. You just don’t care about them in the same way, in fact they almost feel like part of the problem.  Apart from Solo – whilst you might not think he’s a wonderful character, it is interesting to learn his story and you obviously can’t help feeling sorry for him.

I think the most compelling part of this novel and its predecessor, is, could this really happen?  Are we really at the whim of a man who is so out of control?

Read these books – but read them in order!

I’m submitting this for one of my reads of Carl at Stainless Steel Dropping’s Sci Fi event.

Also I  received this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review.  This is my own opinion.

10 Responses to “Shift by Hugh Howey”

  1. Coffee & a BookChick (@CoffeeBookChick)

    I absolutely loved Wool when I read it last year and it ended up being my favorite book for 2012. I’ve meant to dive into his other works and this is one of those I’ve got to read at some point! I know he has other ones out there that relate to Wool, so I just need to get it all sorted out. Hope you had a great New Year!

    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks. I had a great New Year and wish you all the best for 2014.
      Wool was such a brilliant book that it was always going to be a bit difficult to follow. Shift is really good, it doesn’t have the suspense of the first and I also didn’t experience the same attachment to the characters as I did in Wool – but, in fairness to the author I think he’s released these in the best possible order for maximum impact because I think you’re basically signed up after Wool! I’m looking forward to Dust very much – need to find some space in the tbr now to make that possible.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Marie

    Ahh I completely agree with everything you’ve said here – my own review of Shift is sitting half-written, it’s so difficult to know what to say without spoiling Wool! It was not half as gripping as Wool, but great nevertheless. I love the world that Hugh Howey has created. Can’t wait to read Dust now.

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s a tough one to write. I really liked the book and I don’t know whether that comes across – I don’t think it would be possible to top the reading pleasure of Wool but I do think he’s done a great job with this story and having thought about it I think he’s released them in the right order. The characters are not as compelling although I did enjoy Solo’s story – so sad with the cat!
      Looking forward to your review and to reading Dust.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Carl V. Anderson

    I’ve only read the first Shift book and about half the second but intend to get back to them this year. I was pretty impressed because I thought Howey did a nice job of building up tension in First Shift despite knowing exactly what the ultimate end result would be–the silos. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to write something that compelling with the end known but he has so far (again, I’ve not read the whole trilogy) done that for me. Glad you read and enjoyed it.

    • lynnsbooks

      I think it’s a great read. I mean, Wool was just fantastic and I don’t think howey was ever going to top that – I simply fell in love with the characters. This is a great second book though – especially considering we’ve already had the reveal. I’m really looking forward to reading Dust now. This is another series for you to chalk up Carl – never would have picked up Wool without your review – in fact, when I picked it up I started off with a feeling of meh, and after about 2 paragraphs I was completely hooked.
      Lynn 😀

      • Carl V. Anderson

        I fully agree. He hit it out of the park with Wool and it will be hard for him to top that. Heck, its hard for me to find other books that compare with it. It hooked me so hard and I tore through it and continue to push it off on anyone who will listen.

      • lynnsbooks

        Haha, you’re a book pusher!! I love it.
        I must admit I got 3 or 4 people to read this at work – simply because I wanted to discuss it with them. And, they all loved it too. This book has a strange domino effect around people. I wonder if it’ll be made into a film. I heard it was optioned but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything does it? Have you heard. Oh, btw – watched the latest Star Trek the other day – so good. I really enjoyed it.

      • Carl V. Anderson

        The last I heard was the same as you, that it was optioned. Haven’t heard anything else.

        I’m glad you enjoyed Into Darkness. I didn’t have the same problems some had with it being a rehash of Wrath of Khan. I just enjoyed it for what it was.

      • lynnsbooks

        I loved the banter between the characters – which just made me laugh. I thought the action scenes were really well done. I just thought it had a really good feel and made me think back to the original series.
        Lynn 😀

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