“Isn’t that what people did? Saw in others what they feared to see or hoped to see in themselves?”

Hugh Howey


Shift is the sequel to the frankly brilliant Wool, which saw humanity living in giant underground silos, the surface of the earth barren and toxic. In Shift, we get some of the answers.

Spoiler: they’re not very convincing. This I could live with, if the story and the characters were as compelling as they were in Wool. But they’re just not. For a start, the story is basically non-existent. It consists of an extremely whiny, ineffectual guy known as Donald wandering around Silo One, the Silo To Rule Them All, trying to find out what happened to the earth, and why. (The answer sounds like something a paranoid conspiracy theorist would post on the Internet. Pointing this out in the book does not negate this effect.) Interspersed are various other stories: uprisings in Silo Eighteen (the silo of Wool), which are not interesting because they have no long-lasting effects; stuff that happens to bring about the apocalypse before the silos (see Paranoid Conspiracy Theorist, above); and the backstory of Jimmy/Solo, which is frankly rather dull apart from the bits with the cat. (For a quick index of how much I liked this book, consider that my favourite main character in the whole saga was the cat.)

The best bits are when Donald and Jimmy’s stories occasionally overlap with those of Juliette and Lukas, the protagonists of Wool. This is because Juliette and Lukas are far more interesting and convincing than any of the characters in Shift, who are either unbelievably evil and misguided or unbelievably stupid. I find it hard to believe that all those supposedly intelligent people could not realise that Donald was not exactly who he said he was.

It’s interesting how my opinion of a book can change on reviewing it. While I was reading Shift, I’m fairly sure I enjoyed it. But looking back, it’s just disappointing. Shift definitely suffers from the sequel effect: it’s a bridge between Wool and the third book, Dust, providing its readers with Stuff You Need To Know For Dust, and not much else. Not even a story that goes anywhere. Shift is, essentially, one massive info-dump, and nowhere near as good as Wool was.


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