On a whim, I walked to the bookstore, hoping to kill some time on a warm summer night. Making a random selection off the fiction shelves, I left the store ten bucks lighter and with zero expectations. I didn’t realize that I had, in my hands, a rare – adult – dystopian gem. For someone stuck in the vast realm of Young Adult Dystopian Fiction, this was a welcome and refreshing change.
In this novel, Hugh Howey produced, perhaps, one of the more interesting, unique, and memorable dystopian worlds I’ve read in quite some time. The concept of silos and a society moved fully underground was unique, and the metaphorical implications of what that rendered the people in them was stunning. The pacing of the storyline found the perfect balance between action and conversation, in such a way that I never wanted to put the book down.
My favorite aspect of this novel, though, was really the character development. Howey managed to make the people of the silo human and realistic, even though their world is drastically different from ours today – they could all easily relate to modern society. There was also no “megalith” character, on either end of the spectrum, that was constantly and unrealistically able to triumph in the face of any adversity. Along those lines, there was also no clear-cut “good” or “evil” characters. Even the character you most wanted to hate didn’t have the worst intentions – he merely had tunnel vision and failed to see the “right” way to protect his people. In fact, this tale visits that theme more than once – bringing to the surface the age-old argument of whether one should be judged by their intentions or their actions.
There is, of course, the background, harrowing “bigger picture” – and I won’t spoil that for you – that makes the reader consider just how plausible the silo universe could actually be. While it is hard to imagine our world reduced to a toxic wasteland, the origins of Howey’s world speaks volumes for his fears of the global conflict, hatred, and divisions that are seen every day on the news.
If you’re a big enough tech geek, like me, you’ll also appreciate the focus on technology and mechanics, as quite a bit of action occurs in the mechanical levels of the silo. While the science behind the dissection and assembly of a two-way radio isn’t complicated, it is present, and you’ll find yourself nodding your head and holding your breath as the characters inch closer to fixing one themselves. Of course, on another nerdy level, you’ll also probably enjoy this novel’s beginnings. Howey initially self-published the novel in segments, online, and actually used reader feedback to develop his story. If that’s not cool crowdsourcing, I don’t know what is.
There’s definitely a good reason this book was an underground cult favorite, and you’d be missing out if you didn’t give it a shot now that it’s so mainsteam-accessible.