Audiobook Review: Shift by Hugh Howey

26 07 2013

Shift Omnibus Edition (The Silo Saga, Bk. 2) by Hugh Howey

Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds

Hugh Howey

Length: 18 Hrs 22 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: While not overall as affective as Wool, Shift does a good job broadening and enriching the story that began in the original novel. Howey has some difficult tasks to perform to tell this story in a way that will be fresh, even to those who thinks they know all the novel’s secrets. and he manages to pull it off for the most part. For fans of Wool, and any fan of apocalyptic fiction, Shift is a definite must-listen.

Grade: B+

Humanity is just not good people. They do all sorts of bad things, like get into fights over dirt, the proper way to talk to their imaginary friends, and combustible viscous liquids. They exploit everything they touch, believe the earth is just a plaything for their amusement, and quite possibly may be the instrument of their own demise. Really, humanity sucks… except, well for that fact that they make my favorite stuff. There seems to be a theme popping up more and more often in Post Apocalyptic fiction that the world may be better off without so many of us around. That us humans are the fleas on Gaia’s corpse and every once in a while the best thing for the world is to give the earth a nice flea bath. Yet, it’s not just the removal of humanity that’s needed, but the destruction of all the knowledge of its toys. Our society had become too dependent on its technology, and forgot the responsibility is has to the earth. That the only way humanity can survivor is in close harmony with Mother Nature. It sounds like a bunch of hippy dippy bullshit, but it’s slowly starting to permeate into books and philosophies not solely run by those crazy hippies. These ideas have been around a while but slowly they have started to transform. I remember reading books like A Canticle for Leibowitz or The Long Tomorrow, where the Luddites where the villains attempting to send society back to the dark ages, and now they are becoming the heroes saving humidity from its own foibles. Yet, these ideas have always made me uncomfortable. It seems that we often strive for the easiest answers, which at its basest levels is, kill them all and start over. I have trouble thinking this much death could be beneficial, that while we may save the world we will damn our soul. This idea of mass cleansing is to close to Eugenics and Social Darwinism for my taste. Plus, more than likely, I’d be one of the casualties, and really, that would just suck.

Shift is the follow-up to Hugh Howey’s mega-whatever big-time independent whozawhatzit, Wool. Basically, if you haven’t heard of Wool, then you probably have no clue about one of the biggest success stories in the latest iteration of independent publishing. It’s a fun and fascinating publishing story, plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s also dang good novel. Now, in Shift, Howey takes us back to how it all starts. Congressman Donald Keene was a bit uncomfortable when he was pulled into a secretive project headed by a powerful senator, but he also saw it as a way to get ahead while using his skills as an architect. Yet, as he fiends himself more and more involved in the project to build a series of Silos for nuclear storage, he hears more and more about a super nano-weapon that may be being developed by America’s enemies. Shift is a solid follow up to Howey’s excellent Wool. Shift is told through three separate novels, each showing a different aspect of the progression of the Silos up to the time of the happenings of Wool. Howey often jumps between perspectives from different timelines, each time playing off the other to slowly reveal the hidden truths of the situation. In the first novel, Howey deftly moves between Donald’s slow discovery of the truth behind the Silo project and a Silo worker’s first Shift. Howey effectively uses this technique here to build tension. Even though most readers will have an idea about what is going on, since this is a prequel, Howey still manages to keep a few aces up his sleeve. As we move to the second book, Howey has to fight harder to keep the story together. It’s not as fluid, and the less distinctiveness between the timelines leads to some confusion. It’s still effective storytelling, and for the most part works. The third novel is the biggest treat for fans of Wool, showing us new perspectives to iconic scenes of the first book, while expanding some familiar characters’ stories. It also Howey’s best development of Donald’s character, where you begin to get some idea of who he is becoming. While not overall as affective as Wool, Shift does a good job broadening and enriching the story that began in the original novel. Howey has some difficult tasks to perform to tell this story in a way that will be fresh, even to those who think they know all the novel’s secrets. and he manages to pull it off for the most part. What there are no qualifiers for is how ell he builds anticipation for the final novel in the series, Dust. Howey ends Shift in a very interesting way, that makes me quite excited to see where all this will be going next.

It’s no secret that narrator Tim Gerard Reynolds’s has been responsible for some of my favorite all time narrator performances and I am a huge fan of his work. That being said, I was a little perplexed when I discovered he had been tapped to read Shift. He’s an excellent narrator, no doubt, but an excellent IRISH narrator. Being what I remembered about Wool, it was set in an apocalyptic version of the US. I had wondered if maybe I had missed something. That, maybe Shift was being set in the UK. Well, it’s wasn’t. Shift is a decidedly American novel, full of many Southern characters, and the south isn’t known for its Irish accents. Yet, Reynolds’s is also a talented professional, and it took almost no time to get past that little peccadillo and just enjoy his work. Reynolds’s actually does a really good job capturing the characters of Shift. His Southern accents were subtle when they needed to be, and brazen when they didn’t. He did a wonderful job capturing the unique cadence of the smarmiest of beasts, the American politician. His pacing is impeccable. Shift isn’t full of balls to the wall action, yet Reynolds’s managed to fill the narrative with tension, keeping the reading glues to their various listening devices. For fans of Wool, this Audio Omnibus Edition is a must listen, and I am sure that Dust, which will also be narrated by Reynolds’s, will be another audiobook to watch out for.

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