Book Review: SHIFT (Omnibus)


I was a couple years late to the Wool party, and the upside is that I didn’t have to wait to read the next installments in Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga. I finished the Wool books in bed and immediately bought the Shift omnibus on my kindle.

The Shift omnibus includes books 6, 7 and 8 of the Silo Saga: First Shift, Second Shift and Third Shift respectively. The Shift books functions as a series of nested prequels to the Wool books. Like the last three books in the Wool series, each of the Shift is structured around parallel or related narratives. Where the Wool books organized themselves according to location—Silo 17 or Silo 18—the narrative threads of the Shift books are separate by both time and space.

The titles of the books refer to the shifts of a man working in Silo 1, which controls and monitors the other forty nine silos. The people of Silo 1 were cryogenically frozen. Most are scheduled to be thawed back to life periodically for shifts six months long apiece. The Shift books track the histories of Silos 17 and 18 through the watchful eyes of one of Silo 1’s shift workers.

The Shift books have many of the strengths of the Wool—specifically the Howey’s sparse writing and knack for pacing. That said, without the dazzling newness of the worldbuilding Howey’s weak spots are weaker here than they were in Wool. The characterization tends to be thin throughout. The interpersonal complications outlined in Silo 1 have none of the heft or sharpness of life in the other silos, and the character whose shifts we follow is not fully realized enough to carry the books. The other figures in Silo 1 are sketched really just in relation to him, which leaves them one-note and flat. Given where Wool left us, Shift makes the mistake of squandering all that momentum instead of harnessing it.