Thursday, January 07, 2016

A Shift in Perspective

Having completed the five novellas that collectively make up Wool -- the first volume of Hugh Howey's Silo series -- I've now moved on to the next collection, Shift. This "middle part" of the "trilogy" is itself divided into three novellas, the first of which is called (appropriately enough) First Shift -- Legacy.

Shift as a whole is a prequel, telling the tale of how the post-apocalyptic silo of Wool came to be. Legacy spins a double narrative in alternating chapters. In one storyline, set just a few decades in the future, a newly elected U.S. congressman works on the creation of silo itself, unaware of its true purpose as a subterranean "ship in a bottle" for the last of humanity. In the second storyline, set roughly a century after Armageddon, a supervisor awakens from cryosleep to oversee a six month shift as leader of the silo.

Legacy continues to showcase solid writing technique from Howey. He definitely knows how to write a page turner that's compulsively readable, and can pepper it with interesting turns of phrase along the way. The alternating chapter structure used here creates an even stronger pull through the book, as you want to rush through one story to get back to the other.

But this book itself is the weakest of the Silo series so far. The "silo creation" storyline holds no surprises, and features a character who has less information than the reader. It's the classic prequel problem, where a story with a known end point needs to have especially powerful content leading up to that ending to compensate. Legacy doesn't get there. The main character is naive, the senator pulling his strings is evil (without sufficient nuance), and that's about all there is to it.

The "early silo days" story does generate a bit more interest... but its ending too is easily guessed. A late plot twist can be seen coming halfway through the book. And "future history," if you will, ends up repeating itself; Howey treats this main character in much the same way he treated the main characters of earlier stories in the Silo series.

Still, Howey's writing is good enough for me to forgive a small stumble. And I remain as intrigued as ever to see where the series as a whole is headed. First Shift -- Legacy gets a B-. But I'll still be forging ahead with the story.

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