Friday, 5 February 2016

Shift by Hugh Howey (Dystopia 2)

Publication date: 27 January 2013
Published by: Broad Reach
Genre: Sci-fi / Dystopia
Read in 2014

Shift is the sequel to the New York Times bestselling WOOL series. It combines the three Silo-focused books creating an omnibus edition.

My synopsis
The novel starts in a time that resembles present day and focuses on a US politician who has been assigned a special project.  He is required to apply his previous profession as an architect to design a very unique building.  The specification is to design a building like a skyscraper but in reverse (a core-scraper - as in the earth's core).  Donald creates the Silo, a building with over 100 levels underground.  

Donald is part of a team who creates a multitude of these Silos in preparation of a time when humanity will no longer be able to survive on the earth's surface.  Although there is some understanding of this, it is vague and unclear what and why.  Anna is another team member working on the project and her father is a powerful man leading the entire operation.  He is involved with nanotechnology, which he uses as a form cosmetic surgery and to prolong his life.  Donald soon discovers that this nano technology will play a key part in what is yet to come - as will he...

My review
Shift is quite different from WOOL.  The latter was like a literary version of a good DVD box set in that each instalment would end on a cliffhanger that kept you addicted.   Shift is not like that. It is more like the literary verison of the movie Inception (mind boggling stuff that may require mulitiple reads to come to grips with - certainly for me in any case). This one reads more like a continuous narrative and lacks the rollercoster feel of the first book.  It is structured so events are occurring over long periods of time.  This is because the nano technology allows humans to remain in stasis indefinitely, and most people in Silo 1 are kept that way.  A chosen few are woken up intermittently over periods in times (decades) and each time is know as a 'Shift'.  Donald becomes one of them.On his first shift his memory is fuzzy and everything is a mystery.  With each shift things become clearer and Donald discovers the awful truth; the magnitude of what has occurred to humanity, the purpose of Silo 1 with its shifts and how it relates to all the other Silos.

When it is not focusing on Donald, Shift takes the reader to other characters existing in other Silos.  What this serves to do is to give some insight into how WOOL came about (a prequal of sorts), and how the characters in the first book ended up where they did.

Shift reads like a proper Dystopian novel, fully evoking bleakness, misery and dread.  As such, it is a rather uncomfortable read.  I did not enjoy it as much as WOOL (which is also a proper Dystopian novel), but liked it enough to read the final instalment DUST, which I would say is closer to WOOL in style, and therefore a better read. I would definitely like to revisit the trilogy in the future.

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