Dust wraps up the Silo omnibus trilogy by Hugh Howey, an incredible post-apocalyptic tale in which the ‘making of’ is a remarkable story in itself. The first book in the series, Wool, was originally self-published as a set of five short stories. When Howey self-published the first short story in the Wool Omnibus, it went viral almost immediately. The series was quickly picked up by major publishers, and his short stories were published in three large tomes: Wool, Shift, and Dust. Createspace | 2013 | Paperback | 458pp (lucky enough to get another of his self-published versions!)
In Wool, we are taken to an enormous underground silo where the surviving population has lived for hundreds of years following a forgotten post-apocalyptic event. When the sheriff breaks the rules and is sent outside to clean the sensors, a death sentence, a breakdown in society quickly ensues and a rebellion occurs. Juliette, the mechanic from the deep, arises to the top to take control, but soon finds herself the victim of a heinous plot and is sent to ‘clean’ as well, only to survive and make a remarkable discovery. There were other silos.
In Shift, Howey takes us to the beginning, to the very creation of the silos – fifty of them. A senator’s mad plan to destroy the world before the enemy could do so with nanotechnology comes to fruition, and the silos are built to ensure mankind’s survival. As if the bombs dropping wasn’t evil enough, the man in charge still has plans for more destruction, and it involves the silos. His super-computers create a life and death game of survival but no one knows they are playing.
In Dust, the stories and characters from Wool and Shift merge despite the distance of time. Juliette and her crew from Silo 17 and 18 know that their lives have been built upon lies. First, Silo 18 discovered that there were more silos out there when they always thought they were the only ones. Then they discovered the Silo 1 had the power to destroy any silo with the push of a button.
But in Silo 1, another power struggle is being fought. Congressman Donald Keene had built the silos on Senator Thurman’s behest and when the bombs dropped, he was betrayed. Unlike the rest of the silos, the men in Silo 1 are still alive after hundreds of years because they were regularly put into a deep-freeze sleep and wakened for regular shifts which included maintenance and overseeing of the rest of the silos. Keene, always in distrust because of his initial betrayal, discovered that Thurman’s plans for the continuation of humanity ended with only one silo. The winner of his sick and twisted game. When the air was clean and people could leave the silos, only one would be doing so.
Keene is able to take Thurman out of the picture and forge his identity, taking his place in society as head, and he surreptitiously wakes his sister, an air force drone pilot, in a silo where women are forbidden to be woken. What they discover is that the world outside of the circle of silos might be habitable. The entire dust storm raging outside might be a sham. To back up that theory, Juliette discovers that the air samples seem to be less toxic the further they are from the silos.
To get to the bottom of the mystery, Juliette and Keene need to come together, but that’s not going to happen. She hates anyone and everyone from Silo 1 because of the lies, not realizing that Keene is on her side – not realizing that he had taken Thurman’s place.
What we get in Dust is a non-stop, cohesive story line of ‘go, go, go!’ and I’m happy to say that it was my absolute favorite of the trilogy. While I loved the Wool Omnibus tremendously, especially the first story, it was what it was: five linked but separate stories. They were linear, but the you could feel the separateness of them. Same with Shift – we would go back and forth in time with the stories. Dust felt like one complete novel without separation, but it tied together everything we read about in the first two omnibuses.
Juliette is my favorite character in the series and since the movie rights for Wool have been optioned but casting has not been announced, I want to take this time to tell Hollywood: Michelle Rodriguez. Please. I had her in my head from Juliette’s first mention, her first description. She would do justice to this role.
“She had devoted most of her life to holding that silo together, to keep it running. This was a kindness repaid by the silo as it filled her lungs with air, gave rise to crops, and claimed the dead. They were responsible for one another. Without people, the silo would become as Solo’s had: rusted and fairly drowned. Without the silo, she would be a skull on a hill, looking blankly to the cloud-filled skies. They needed each other.”
We have a lot of tragedies in Dust, some heartbreaking moments when we lose favorite characters. But what it comes down to is the paths we choose to take. Howey is brilliant by infusing main themes through symbolism in each omnibus. With Wool, it was the stairs and a representation of class or hierarchy. With Shift, it was all about power and challenges to that power. In Dust, his theme is ‘making your actions count’.
“Instead, everything we do is left in … like a trail out there, a big ring of decisions. Every action we take – and every mistake. But every good thing we do as well. They are immortal, every single touch we leave behind. Even if nobody sees them or remembers them, that doesn’t matter. The trail will always be what happened, what we did, every choice. The past lives on forever. There’s no changing it.”
There are several people who give it ‘all’ willingly, the ultimate sacrifice to save humankind and to bring freedom to other silos.
But do they succeed? You just never know with Howey. I guess you’ll have to read the book and find out.
by Hugh Howey