Sometimes we get lucky. Every so often a story comes along that takes over our lives. It may be a movie, a book, a TV show. What it is doesn’t matter. What matters is the way these works transport us. We get to visit new worlds, explore sides of ourselves we’ve never seen, escape from our day to day. When we stumble across these moments they make us feel alive, like anything is possible.
Hugh Howe’s Silo universe did this for me. I first read Wool in July of 2012. I was in the midst of a reading funk. I had lost interest in the crime and spy novels of my youth and had been through all of my favorite science fiction authors more times than I could count. I was looking for something new. I started searching the cheap books in the Kindle Library. I figured it was time to give some new authors a shot. If it was science fiction and it was under $5, I gave it a try. On about the fourth or fifth book I came across Wool. It had really good reviews and the premise was intriguing.
It only took a handful of chapters to suck me in. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next in the Silo. I had been transported to a world that existed in another time and another place. I felt like I was walking around the concrete encased world of the Silo. I felt like I knew these characters, had known them for a long time. I couldn’t get enough.
Luckily by the time I finished Wool, Howey had published First Shift. The first of three prequels, First Shift told the story of where the Silo’s came from. Second and Third Shift led readers right up to the end of Wool. Stories intertwined, secrets were kept, backs were stabbed, lives were lost. By the time I finished Third Shift I again hungered for the end Howey promised. Unfortunately I had several months to wait before the finale. I spent that time building up my hopes and fretting over the small chance I would be let down.
I had nothing to be worried about. I awoke this past Saturday to find my pre-ordered copy of Dust waiting on my Kindle. I started reading and before my family was even out of bed I knew I was going to be worthless for the rest of the weekend. From the first few paragraphs I found myself transported back to that world I fell in love with last summer. I could feel dampness of the air in Silo 17. I experienced terror alongside the characters with each plot twist. I was disheartened by the all too accurate depiction of our shortcomings portrayed in key characters. Yet I was uplifted time and again by the personification of our best qualities in others. I feared for them. I loved with them. I lost with them.
Most of all I dreaded the end as I neared the final pages.
I finished a little under 30 hours after I started. I could not have been happier with the result. Dust gave me exactly what I wanted; it transported me to another place and made me care about a group of people that don’t really exist (although we could have a really great existential conversation about that point).
I felt something else this time though, something I’ve never really felt before at the conclusion of a great story. I felt lost.
When I read Howey’s thank you after the last chapter I found myself fighting back tears. I realized the relationship I had with this world was ending. Yes, I will read these books multiple times over the years but there is nothing that could replace the first. I will never again get to imagine where the story might take me next. I’ll never again get to anticipate the ramifications of character decisions or be taken aback by the masterful plot twists. This story was special in its telling and I will never get that experience again.
I have tried to write a review of these books for over a year now. I’ve come to realize though, I don’t think I can. Not in the traditional sense. A large part of what made these stories so great was the lack of knowledge going in. So much of the emotional heft of the books would be lessened by even a few spoilers. Because of this I can’t bring myself to write about them in any detail, so I’ll just stick to these descriptions of my experience. It’s a journey I wish more people would allow themselves to enjoy.
If you haven’t yet read these books, I highly encourage you do so soon. You will be whisked away to new world to explore the depths of not only the Silos but of human depravity and resilience. It is rewarding journey that full of twists, turns, laughs, cries, friends and villains. You will not be disappointed.
P.S. – After you take my advice and read these books you’ll most likely feel a void where the Silo’s used to dwell. Well fear not! Hugh Howey recently licensed his works for use in Kindle Worlds. This program gives aspiring authors the opportunity to create their own stories within the world of the Silo. With very few limitations on the content, authors can explore their own storylines, relationships and experiences. There have already been several stories published with many more on the way. It is an exciting opportunity to see the universe expand so be sure to check these stories out too. Or better yet, write one yourself!