This prequel to the fantastic Wool follows present-day U.S. congressman, Donald, as he is drafted to architect a top-secret project, about which he discovers the truth too late. The same year, automated nanobiotech reaches a milestone in the race to use micro-robots to diagnose and repair human disease, and a simple pill is discovered that erases the memory of any traumatic event. “At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened.”
Similar to Wool, Shift is the combination of three shorter novellas with their own mini-story-arcs, which simultaneously provides a richer universe experience from multiple POVs and slows down the pace of each novel. Although Donald’s milquetoast personality is not my favorite of the protagonists, his character frames the novel as he awakens for each of his shifts, ultimately revealing the long-awaited mystery of the silos amid a tumultuously emotionally personal story. Even when Donald finally finds his strength, his actions lose the empathy of the audience, making his life even more tragic.
The other two protagonists are from the world of the silos, during and post-uprising, and their arcs continue to ask questions that are at the heart of the Silo stories including ‘How much killing is required to save lives?’ And ‘How far do we follow a survival of the fittest scenario?’ With Shift, Howey continues to (almost visibly) expand the readers viewpoint, unraveling a conspiracy from the very top with superb characterization. I also love the slow and subtle realization of an origin story for one of the characters from Wool, but I find the quick switches between numbered silos a little confusing.
Recommended for fans of quintessential dystopian scifi. Wool is a 5-star modern-classic, and although Shift doesn’t quite match the intensity and excitement of it’s predecessor, I can’t wait to read the conclusion, Dust.
“He turned the coin over and over and contemplated the only thing unusual about him holding a trinket from a world fallen to ashes – and that was him being around to marvel at the loss. It was supposed to be people who died and cultures that lasted. Now, it was the other way around.”