Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the Silo series is a trilogy of novels by science fiction author Hugh Howey. The first book, Wool, started as a short story back in 2011, and quickly became a full blown novel which spawned two more books: Shift and Dust.
The Earth as we know it has been ruined… and the last of the humans live in an underground silo with strict rules. Each of them must be followed or one will have to bear the consequences – the outside. This is something that is strictly forbidden to even say out loud; and believe me, it’s the last place you’d want to be sent.
You follow the story of your main cast as they try to navigate the complex world of taboo, the old ways and the new generation, who are seeking change. The older generation are set in their ways, believing that you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. Others however, think that is it time to move things along and make a better life for themselves and the future members of the silo. A revolution might be brewing… But how can one accomplish a revolution from hundreds of stories deep? The hopeful people, the optimistic ones believe that their only escape is to venture outside of the silo.
One of the most interesting aspects of the series for me was it’s setting. You get a rundown of how the silo functions and how the people live there, which paints a clearer picture of the situation for the folks in the post-apocalyptic community.
… stared out at the dead world… low rolling hills stood, a pretty shade of brown like coffee mash with just the right amount of pig’s milk.
Such a simple phrase that is loaded with information and instantly creates a detailed image of the juxtaposition between the forbidden outside world and life in the silo.
The descriptive language offers detail enough of the setting, but Howey doesn’t run on with sentences a la Anne Rice if you know what I mean.
The tight confines of that long spiral [staircase], threading thought the buried silo like a straw in a glass, had not been built for such abuse.
The characters, on the other hand, are very well fleshed out. Their jobs, daily tasks and physical descriptions are wonderfully detailed. These are an important factor of the novels, since the people in the silos deal with such desperation and longing for change.
This is a world where all characters, major or supporting, must have well defined personality traits in order to add to their believability and to understand their backgrounds and the circumstances that lead them to start questioning things about the forbidden outside world.
… beneath the sweat and grime, she was beautiful. Her face was hard and lean, her eyes bright. She had a fierce intelligence you could measure from a distance.
What keeps the readers interest throughout the course of the series is that each book jumps to different silos, different times periods and different characters, all living through this strange world of silos and a dystopian lifestyle. However, each novel, each story is interwoven like a spider’s web, flowing from character to character and taking them in brand new directions. However, not all is at it seems, and you eventually come to realize that times may not be as different as you originally were given to understand.
This, for me, was possibly the best part of the series. Thinking or even referring back to previous stories and previous characters to form connections in my mind and find the patterns had me mesmerized with the series the whole way through. This sort of narrative is complex, but Hugh Howey navigates it seamlessly, and I found myself weaving storylines together to make something longer, more epic.
The Silo series is a gripping story for anyone who likes science fiction stories, but more importantly those set in a post-apocalyptic world. There are no fancy sci-fi technology or references; it’s all about humans experiencing a confined space, and being shown the classic forbidden fruit, which is – as usual – oh so tempting.
I would highly recommend this series to anyone who is looking to jump into a great new sci-fi epic, and who want to feel the characters liberation and the taste of the human hope, optimism and desperation to survive.
After reading this, you will probably want to explore some slightly more open space. I’d recommend diving into The Martian by Andy Weir. You’ve heard of it, trust me. Slide into your space suit and happy reading!