The last of Howey’s brilliant three-part trilogy delivers a fitting end to this metaphorical treatise on the state of our world, and what it will take to redeem it from its headlong rush into folly. The “Silo Saga,” as the trilogy has unofficially come to be called, tells the story of the remnants of mankind hundreds of years into the future, now living in vast underground silos, which are slowly but surely facing their end days.
The two main characters driving the action of this final third are Juliette, first introduced in Wool and then the heroine of Dust, and Donald, the engineer of the silos who has awakened (literally and figuratively) to the original insidious design behind them. To sum up the action thus far: Juliette is a strong-willed young woman from the mechanical depths of Silo 18, who asked too many questions, challenged too many rigid conventions, and ended up condemned to death by being thrust outside her silo into a toxic environment to die. However, a suit secretly modified by her supporters enabled her to make her way to what turns out to be a dead Silo 17, apparently devoid of humanity and partially flooded. When she discovers a handful of survivors living in its depths, she vows to return to her own home, solve the mystery behind the silos, and enlighten her people who in her absence have suffered a bloody insurrection. Her return to Silo 18 is met with suspicion and distrust by many who have been indoctrinated for life to believe that they are all there is of the surviving world, and she faces an uphill battle to bring the survivors of Silo 17 back into society while breaking the isolation of Silo 18.
Juliette’s lover Lucas, meanwhile, has managed to get into clandestine radio contact with Donald over in Silo One, and together they begin to unravel the terrifying conspiracy behind the Silo design. Donald has just been awakened from hundreds of years of cryogenically-induced sleep and is in a race against time –and against his nemesis Senator Thurman–to save the many thousands living in isolated Silos from the endgame that was plotted by Thurman back in the beginning.
Okay, all that said, Shift has a very different feel than either Wool or Dust. The reader is no longer in the dark as to who and what is going on, the plot is dense and more convoluted, with more overtones of a cinematic thriller. It is truly edge-of-your-seat excitement, and the end is as hopeful as you can get for a dystopic novel. It did leave me with a bunch of questions that I felt Howey left unanswered, and while it is true that an author is not obliged to wrap up all loose threads, in this case I would have appreciated it. Still, a great and highly recommended read.