Book Review: Shift by Hugh Howey


Title: Shift by Hugh Howey
Publisher: Broad Reach Publishing
Publication Date: January 2013
Genre: Science Fiction / Dystopia

In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate.

In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out 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.



Shift is the prequel to The Wool Omnibus. You can read my review of Wool here. Shift primarily tells the story of how the underground silos came to exist and why the world became unliveable.

The first half of the book is very different from Wool, and much slower. It starts with Donald Keene, a congressman involved in a top secret project to build an underground facility. He believes the lie he’s fed about the facility’s construction, and is quickly trapped into an existence he had tried to believe wasn’t possible. As a main character, Donald was far too naive and annoying for me. He believed what he was being told too easily, simply because of the reasons relating to his election and the fact he felt like he was “family” with the senator who helped him get elected.

Donald’s scenes are at first interspersed with those of Troy’s – a man woken up from deep freeze for his first shift running Silo One. I was far more interested in him. He began to “wake up” and question what had happened for him to end up in the silo and his involvement in the end of the world. He was conflicted, but not angry enough. I loved being able to read Jimmy/Solo’s backstory and the fall of silo 17. He was such an intriguing character in Wool that it was nice to see who he was before.

The world before the apocalypse is familiar and kind of spooky as a result. It was a good contrast to the second half of the story set within Silo One. The plot wasn’t as engaging in this book, but I did like finding out what the main goal was for the silo’s and the fact that the future of the silo’s, and Juliette’s in particular, isn’t entirely certain. I’m looking forward to reading the next and final book in the series – Dust.

End note: I have just recently figured out how to borrow ebooks from the library, so rather than keep missing out on the physical copy of Dust, I will be able to download it – yippee!