My Day Shift

As I neared completion of Hugh Howey’s Wool, I ordered the other two books in the series, which are Shift and Dust.  I had no regrets.  Although Wool was fantastic and left me satisfied as a story by itself, I was thirsty to find out what these other books in this world were all about.  So, I started my day shift reading Shift.  This review assumes you have already read Wool.

Sorry, the book was shifting during exposure
The Shift omnibus is composed of three parts.  Each of the three parts have two stories.  The first and second parts are prequels to the story of Wool, providing some insight into how and why the silos came about.  The third part is a parallel story of Wool in a sense.  One story begins around the same time as the other story ends, which is when Juliette makes it over the hill and meets Jimmy (Solo) in Silo 17.
Once again, I find multiple meanings for the simple title of his book. Very soon into chapter 2, the reader is introduced to the world of Silo #1 and the cryogenic thawing and freezing of individuals who are just coming on or getting off their shift.  The theme of the entire book is the shift between order and chaos, and the different events that occur that determine the direction of that shift. We also have the shifting the reader must go through, from one story and time to another. 
The odd chapters in ‘First Shift: Legacy’ introduce the reader to congressman Donald Greene in the years 2049-2052.  His story, one could argue, is one of a shift from order to chaos.  He is recruited by Senator Thurman to begin work on a private project.  Over the course of the three years, he slowly puts pieces together that the reader may even have difficulty doing.  You can see Donald’s internal struggle of having to choose between two great evils.  But it isn’t just that. There is a path that he is already on, which may or may not be a greater evil. The idea put forth, however, is one in which you would have to selectively get off of that path in pursuit of another evil.  Humans are faced with these choices from time to time.  In cases like these, it is easy to do nothing when the outcome is not going to be pleasant in either case.   
The even chapters follow Troy, who is serving a shift as some sort of 2nd or 3rd level officer of Silo #1.  We meet him in chapter 2 as he is waking up in 2110 out of a cryogenic sleep, the world long since destroyed.  Troy’s story is one of a shift from having forgotten to one of remembering.  His story is an example of why I prefer a good read over a movie or a TV show any day. Howey ties together the two stories of Donald and Troy in a clever way only a novel can do.

In Second Shift: Order, Howey provides the reader with a slightly less jarring shift of going back and forth from chapter to chapter; this time spending 3-5 chapters with one story and time line before switching to another.  In this book, we meet Mission from Silo #18, back before the great uprising.  Although a great story, I will admit that I couldn’t find the connection between this and anything in the Wool series.  Perhaps I will find out when reading Dust.  I have some guesses as to who The Crow may be, but am not sure.  I invite fans to give their own thoughts below (as long as it isn’t a spoiler; I haven’t read Dust yet).

The Second Shift also continues to follow Donald, a freezing and thawing time gap from the First Shift.  The reader begins to get a huge wave of answers about the shit that went down.  I can’t say much about this part of the story without giving much away, but Donald plays a large part in investigating a suicide.  Throughout Donald’s story in the Second Shift, I saw him shift from one side of sanity to the other.  A great quote from this story:

“Humans have this disease, Donny, this compulsion to move until we bump into something.  And then we tunnel through that something, or we sail over the edge of the oceans, or we stagger across mountains–
Fear.  Even the fear of death is barely enough to counter this compulsion of ours.”  

After thinking about this quote a while, I don’t find it accurate; it is too general.  Many humans do not have this disease.  Many humans are content in waking up and going through the same routine as the day before.  These humans are not only resistant to the idea of ‘tunneling’ through this routine to something else, they are fearful and anxious of other humans, like myself, tunneling through.  In fact, they may take measures to stop us from doing so.

Missing from these two stories in the Second Shift, was their convergence.  Here again, I could be just missing something.

In Third Shift: The Pact, Howey again moves in groups of 3-5 chapters from one story to the next.  It would be too much to offer what character plays in one of the stories.  I want you to experience the similar surprise that I did, so no spoilers here.  The time and setting is very shortly after Juliette disappears over the hill in Wool, and takes place inside Silo #1.

The other, as I’ve mentioned before, is the story of Jimmy (Solo) from Silo #17.  It begins when he is 16 years old and an uprising begins.  We find out that Jimmy is the son of the most important IT guy; the guy with the secret room.  Told completely from his perspective, we gain no insight into what makes this uprising occur.  The only thing that we know is that a cleaning is to occur the following day (which doesn’t happen).  We jump quickly through his story of being alone (or is he?) by way of these series of chapters: Hour 1, Day 1, Week 1, and then Years 2, 7, 12, 16, 20, and finally, 34.

At the end of the sequence of chapters for Year 16, Solo has been with a cat for several years now.  He would go down to the flooded part of the silo to catch fish for Shadow.  But he didn’t want to catch the last one. He wanted to leave the last one be, projecting himself on this last fish.

Just the one he thought, as he watched Shadow eat.  It would be scared enough down there.  No need to go yanking it out into the frightful air.  Just let the poor thing be. 

My day shift is over.  Time to shift to another book.  On to Dust, where everything must return at some point. 

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