Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #78: Shift by Hugh Howey

The second of this massive sci-fi/dystopic trilogy is as thrilling as the first, Wool. In Howey’s second omnibus novel, we learn the reason that humanity has been living in underground silos for hundreds of years, and –a bit of a spoiler here!—we observe those societies begin to crumble and break apart. We are challenged to face the possibility that this could be our own future generations from now, but we are also challenged—like the protagonists of Shift—to come up with solutions that will not only redress the wrongs committed, but guarantee a more hopeful future for our own progeny.

Most of the characters in Shift are new, and we are presented with another whole side to the future society Howey has created, based on a science and technology perhaps not so many generations ahead of where we are now—with all the exciting potential and risks they carry. But we are also presented with the kinds of moral dilemmas, the kinds of moral choices that his characters in Wool had to make against seemingly insurmountable odds and that the “heroes” and “villains” in Shift must also make. Many questions from the first book are answered, only to lead to a whole new host of questions still waiting to be answered by the third book, reportedly still in the writing stage.

In fact, there are no real heroes and villains in Howey’s books; what there are people who step out of their assigned roles in life and assume responsibility for things larger than themselves. Their choices are not always the right ones, but as they struggle with those choices, so do we alongside them. What would we have done differently? Or would we have closed our eyes and wished it all away. And this, along with fine writing, meticulous research, dramatic character development and a fertile imagination, is what makes Howey’s books so powerful. I was kept awake many a night trying to fathom the decisions his characters made, and I think it’s books that can stir you like that which make them worth the read.