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Shift + Alt + Delete
on 28 September 2013
Shift is a prequel - don't read it unless you have already read Wool.
Shift sets the scene that we discover in Wool. We find out why people are living in silos, we find out a little bit about how the silos operate and what the game plan might be. And most of all, we discover a lift. That's right, after all the stairs in Wool, we find a perfectly functional lift allowing easy access between floors. In Silo 1.
Unlike the early, claustrophobic scenes in Wool, we find narrative switching between silos; we find backstories and time shifts. We find an outside world, albeit one in far history. Some of the key questions - dare one say problems - raised by readers of Wool are addressed in this prequel. But, as prequels often can, Shift tends towards slaying some of the heros of the original work. We see Juliette and Jimmy playing out pre-determined roles; their motives seem somehow less pure and idealistic. They are tainted.
The action in Shift switches between three storylines - a newly elected Congressman (Donald) who finds himself in Silo 1; a man called Mission who starts to think independently in Silo 18; and Jimmy in Silo 17 whom we know from Wool. Of these stories, Donald and Jimmy work well. Mission feels like filler; he has no personality and the action around him feels contrived. This is a pity; the opening scenes in Silo 18 in Wool (the Holston storyline) were powerful and deserved a better backstory.
Nevertheless, Shift is well written and mostly pretty taut. It may be long but it holds the reader's interest and the pages keep turning.
As prequels sometimes do, Shift lacks a decent ending. The ending is simply the original book - which might have been sufficient on its own without beginning or end, but the creation of a beginning necessitates the creation of an end. Fortunately that - in the form of Dust - has recently been released...