Dust

Posted: June 3, 2016 in Book reviews
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By Hugh Howey

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And so we come to the final part of the Silo trilogy. I’ll try not to include any spoilers for Dust, however by the very nature of talking about book three I’ll talk about Wool and Shift so there likely will be spoilers for those books—you have been warned.

Dust begins shortly after Shift ended, with Donald (the former congressman who’s been cryogenically frozen for centuries in Silo 1) continuing to masquerade as former Senator Thurman, the man in charge of the project. Donald wants the help the other silos, but it’s difficult given they’re mostly run by people who believe in The Pact, the mission orders designed to keep them in line. He’s woken his sister Charlotte—a former air force drone pilot—to help him.

He’s also still in contact with Silo 18, where Juliette, the heroine of all three books, is now serving as mayor, which is a major promotion for a woman who went from being an engineer to being sheriff before being exiled to ‘clean’ and finding her way to another Silo, and who then became the first person to ever come back from a cleaning.

Juliette doesn’t trust Donald, though her lover Lukas—now Silo 18’s head of IT—does. Lukas wants to get as much information as possible out of Donald, but Juliette is more interested in the huge underground drilling machine she has found deep in the bowels of the silo which she believes can be used to tunnel to the near abandoned Silo 17, where her friend Solo and a bunch of semi-feral children are the only inhabitants.

All too soon the fates of these characters, and the three silos they inhabit—as well as perhaps the other remaining silos—will become inextricably entwined, but buried beneath the poisoned Earth is there any real hope?

 

I’ve enjoyed the Silo trilogy, and I can see why it’s proven such a huge hit around the globe. That said I’ve had issues with it from the start and they continue into the final book. Howey is a good writer, and he’s especially good at world building and creating engaging plots that make you want to keep reading to find out what happens. He’s less good with characters and although she’s been the focus of the story I have to say that I’ve never really engaged much with Juliette. Oddly the characters I most liked were the original Mayor and Sheriff from the beginning of Wool, as well as Donald and Solo. Unfortunately the original Mayor and Sheriff of Silo 18 didn’t last too long, and whilst Solo’s story that took up much of the second book served to flesh out his character, here he doesn’t get to do much, and with his solitude taken away from him he becomes almost as interchangeable as many other characters like Ralph, Shirley, Courtnee et al, so really for me Donald is the glue that holds the story together, perhaps because he is so flawed, perhaps because it is easier to identify with a character who, though from our near future, clearly came from a world not so different to our own rather than having grown up within the confines of a silo.

It doesn’t help that people tend to sound the same, and you do feel like you could take dialogue from Juliette and give it to Charlotte and you wouldn’t notice much difference, and it’s a shame because the world is so unusual and fleshed out, but the characters not so much.

This feels like a story that Howey wasn’t sure how to end, and the book goes off at tangents at times, some of which don’t really go anywhere. There’s a major tragedy that had the ring of truth about it but still felt unnecessary, and Howey spends far too long detailing the intricacies of the drilling machine, or following a child as she chases a puppy through the Silo. There’s a religious fanaticism subplot which tapers off somewhat, and similarly vague revelations about the nanobots in the atmosphere that are similarly not followed up on. Major characters die, or even seemingly return from the grave, almost at random, whilst new characters appear in our heroes’ hour of need seeming more than a little contrived.

The ending is pretty bog standard, featuring a noble sacrifice and a potential happy ending, although all things considered you may feel a little cheated, and for far too many people there is no real end at all.

As I’ve said, Howey is an engaging writer, and he created a wonderful world within which to set a great story, but too often it feels like the characters are just actors whose only purpose is to drive the plot. Wool had twists and turns, and a mystery to reveal, and Shift filled in the blanks whilst also introducing us to two characters who stood out from Howey’s generic crowd. In contrast Dust really doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it just ties up a few loose ends and leaves yet more hanging.

Don’t get me wrong, it provides an acceptable ending to a fine series, but for me it’s probably the weakest book of the three.

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