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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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I seem to be in the habit of reading sequels at the moment. Sequels which don't match up to their (brilliant) predecessors. Sadly, Shift by Hugh Howey continues the trend. As with Buzz, it's not so much that Shift is a bad book, it's more that Wool was such a high quality novel, that with my expectations ramped to the max Shift could only disappoint.

Some of my issues with the book are more to do with the history of the trilogy's genesis, and are perhaps therefore a little unfair. As you probably know if you've read this far, Wool is an Internet publishing success story. It was published in small instalments. The physical novel was a group of these bound together. You could sort of tell, but it didn't matter. Shift is much the same. It contains three essentially separate (but linked) stories. Binding them together into a single novel implies a coherence that I would suggest isn't there. The overall narrative is disjointed and it jars as you move from one section to the next. This issue is easily overlooked and mostly forgiveable.

More difficult to see past are, for want of a better term, the world-building issues. Much of the majesty of Wool is that the hermetically sealed silo is a wholly credible dystopian system. I stated in my review of Wool that I found it less convincing when we learn there are more silos and more so when Jules gets outside. These problems are compounded in Shift.

The opening story is effectively a genesis story, and it's an interesting one, but knowing there are fifty silos running alongside one another dilutes the impact of the idea (It's and Alien Vs Aliens phenomenon). Moreover, having the construction of the silos laid out destroys their mystery. It's no longer a huge can randomly buried in the ground with a fascinating society living within. In Wool the silo just 'IS'. Now we learn it's built to a plan. A plan one can't help pick holes in and question whether it could really happen. I can't help thinking, probably not. Suddenly the whole premise looks shaky and the brilliance of what has gone before is undermined.

The whodunit aspects of Wool were exemplary. The claustrophobic setting, taut prose and mysterious society lent weight to what was genuinely innovative storytelling. In Shift the narrative is more mundane. A dystopian vision and its unhappy denizens railing against the machine. The three stories, though different in nature still amount to roughly the same thing: Who watches the watchmen? It's not an unimportant question, but it's a question often asked and one which has been answered better elsewhere.

All this is a rather bleak appraisal of a book that really isn't bad at all. It's impossible to know what I would have made of Shift if I hadn't previously read Wool (it's worth pointing out here that although this is a prequel it cannot be read before Wool without diminishing both books). The story of the Silos' inception is interesting, as is their inter-relationships. More interesting is the idea that some of the architects of the catastrophe may have been so unwittingly. 'How could you not know?' a character asks himself, but it is perhaps human nature to ignore the wider implications of their actions. Obeying orders makes us comfortable. This idea reflects back onto many of history's worst moments.

There is intrigue and skulduggery aplenty. On reading Shift, one is left with the uncomfortable feeling that humanity's default setting is 'destroy'. Characterisation is strong, greatly adding to the novel's readability. Whilst I have my reservations about this book, Howey's creation is still a valuable addition to the dystopian canon. I don't think this book enhances Wool's reputation, but it certainly holds the reader's attention. This is not a perfect follow up, but for those who want to spend more time in Howey's bleak vision of the future, it still has much to recommend.
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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...
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on 14 October 2013
I don't normally like prequels (they just don't work for me for some reason) but have to say this one does. Sets out a lot of the background to Wool and slowly brings in some of the characters from Wool.

As with Wool, a gripping read.

Word of warning, don't be tempted to read this before Wool, even though the events happen before those in Wool, I don't think it would really make sense unless you read wool first (which if you haven't you really should :-) )
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This is the second book in the Wool trilogy. I first read Wool (Wool Trilogy 1) about a year ago, but it is only now that I have got around to reading this, the second book. Although officially labelled as a prequel this is more than that, this also brings us back to the first book, so if you still haven't read the first book you could start here.

At last we find out how the silos came to be built, and the reasoning behind them. This book, although detailing other characters and situations does have Donald Keene, a newly elected congressman as the main character. Donald, along with others, is given a job to do by Senator Thurman, which is all a bit hush-hush. And so our story sets off with secrets and manipulations. People being kept in the dark and assigned pieces of an overall plan, this is Government at work. As over the centuries Donald starts to piece the grand plan together he finds that all the time things are being withheld or obscured. Whilst this is going on though, not all is well in the silos, as destruction and chaos rears its head from time to time.

As I stated earlier, it is some time since I read Wool, but you soon find yourself back into this world and feel like you have never left. On the cover of my book it says 'The next Hunger Games' but I think that perhaps the next Matrix would be more apt.

With twists and turns this book is just as readable as the first as once again we find ourselves reading about the possible outcome for mankind. This edition also has a book group guide in the back for those who are interested. This is another great instalment in the Wool trilogy.
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on 19 October 2015
Having read Wool I presumed the other books would be just as good, sadly a mistake. This book, which I struggled through right to the end, was just too much hard work. I lost interest in the people and in the end I didn't really care what happened.
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on 25 August 2014
After leaving us with a cliffhanger at the end of Wool, Shift - the second novel in Hugh Howey's silo trilogy - prolongs our wait for a conclusion to his tale by making this a prequel. It begins in the near future of our world, detailing how the Silos and the apocalypse that made them necessary came into being. One of the Silos' architects, Donald, is then forced into cryosleep and catapulted forwards in time to the familiar setting of Wool. Here, he co-ordinates the little society of silos from the secret control rooms of Silo 1. Meanwhile, we also witness the fall of Silo 17 through the eyes of a young boy who goes on to become Solo, and the tumult of Silo 18's recent past in the context of another boy; a young porter named Mission.

Fans of Wool will find more of what they enjoyed in Howey's first novel here, but should be warned: Shift is even bleaker, and comparatively heavy-going. Where Wool was a taut, claustrophobic thriller, set largely in the splendid isolation of Silo 18, Shift is much more expansive. In doing so it introduces structural problems absent from the first book. Donald's narrative - both in the near and distant future - does the most to advance the trilogy's plot. Part of the appeal of Wool was the mystery surrounding the existence of the Silo; this created a brilliant tension, but could not be maintained indefinitely. Donald's tale offers answers to many of the questions left over from Wool, but looses something which made the first book special in doing so. His sections of Shift are also some of the most difficult to read. His plight is unremittingly miserable; tormented by having destroyed everything he loved, he finds himself in the medicated hell of Silo 1, leading a project he no longer believes in. Whilst grim, Donald's sections are at times wonderfully-written; in particular, the wrenching dislocation induced by skipping decades in cryosleep is evocatively portrayed. However, his strand of the plot does suffer from being the middle portion of a trilogy. Lacking a satisfying conclusion, the reader is again left wanting more.

Unlike other reviewers, I had no problem with Solo and Mission's sections of the novel in themselves. Solo's is similar to Donald's in that he finds himself the survivor of a cataclysm, ruminating on his guilt and loneliness. Mission's, meanwhile, is reminiscent of the original Wool; it is again set in Silo 18, featuring a totalitarian society throw into chaos by social unrest. Both narratives would stand alone comfortably as engaging novellas. Are they necessary additions to Shift, however? I do not think so. It is difficult to see why Howey included them in the middle section of his trilogy, rather than optional additions. By interrupting the main narrative sweep, the temptation for readers will be to race impatiently through these portions of the book.

Shift is a strange beast, then, adding depth and breadth to Wool's narrative whilst doing nothing to advance it. Lacking some of the elegance and energy of its predecessor, how much fans of the original enjoy it will depend on their appetite for further world-building. Some of Shift is necessary to complete the Silo Trilogy; much more of it, however compelling in itself, feels disposable.
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Excellent prequel to "Wool" detailing the build up to the construction of the 50 silos prior to the apocalyptic event that meant that the only survivors would be those who were in the silos after mass extinction. It's set in the future from 2048 to 2345 but you can't help thinking that the way things are at the moment it my be prophetic.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 May 2013
Review

Normally when you start a second book its with a little trepidation, will it suffer a second book slump? Not so with this one, this has been published in short story form to some acclaim. After reading Wool I really wanted to get my hands on it and was glad it wasn't a year wait between books.

Where Wool drew you into a dark world, a world that explored human interaction, evolution in seclusion, a real 1984 style culture of being monitored and living to a strict code, Shift takes it to the next level. A prequel that shows how it all began, running in a time slip style showing Before the end, the creation of the Silo's, right through to its parallel plot running through the collapses and with flick backs to Wool and the voice on the end of the headset.

I thought this book was so well paced and structured, I was gripped from page one, I was yearning for those overlaps, where Shift meets Wool, to how characters became what they were and why.

Solo's character is a wonderful portrayal of a young man in isolation, but without any level of depressing thought, just survival, you really root for him all the way through, even though you know what happens to him.

Donald though is a clear favourite, a man who thinks he is serving his country, a man who is manipulated from the start, a man who sympathises and understands eventually what is happening and how the people in the Silos have been tricked, even though they do not know it. A man who maybe going mad, a man who may just be seeing the whole picture and becoming the only sane man left. It's for you to judge.

Very Highly recommended

(Parm)
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on 18 March 2014
I read Wool & loved every written word, sheer brilliance!
On starting Shift I began to wonder if this would match the expectations I had of it as I struggled with the first dozen pages set in the present day but knew it would have to at some point take me back into the fascinating world of the Silo's & when it did I engaged with the story instantly & remained there until finished.

The end didn't feel like an end to me & luckily I had 'Dust' ready & waiting on the kindle so went straight to it & it just felt like I was continuing the story so worked well, perhaps wouldn't have been so elated if Dust hadn't been written at that point.
Even with those two glitches this is another brilliant piece of writing & one to stand amongst my all time favourites.
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on 18 June 2016
Having read Wool and loved every page, I was expecting another masterpiece which clearly this is not. It feel's like it's been cobbled together quickly for the sake of the publisher seeking further profits. The book continually, and unnecessarily , jumps between 2049 and 2110. The worst part about this is that NOTHING actually happens! It completely lacks the straightforward linear progression of Wool. If you looking for another Wool - this is NOT it. It's, for the most part, slow, tedious and uneventful. At first I didn't believe the bad reviews of this book. Now I really understand what they mean.
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