Hugh Howey: Dust

Sep 20, 2015

Dust is the last book in the Silo series by Hugh Howey. I’ve written about the previous book, Shift in January. While Shift was part a backstory for the project of Silos and part a story of a lone survival of death of a silo, Dust gets back to what readers enjoyed so much in Wool: the life in Silo 18. But on top of that it mixes in the backstory which catches up to the present time and crashes into it head on.

Spoilers ahead

POVs in Dust are a mix of known characters. The main hero, Juliette, is now, upon her over-the-ground return from Silo 17, a mayor. Mayor with a mission to save the children from Silo 17. Even though she survived on the outside and is a living proof the world isn’t what they’ve been led to believe, she has very few allies in her silo which is decimated in the recent uprising. Many are trying to get back to their life as before and cope with loss of loved ones and many turn to conservative religious leaders who believe Juliette a traitor and a heretic.

The second point of view comes from Solo, the oldest survivor from Silo 17. He and the kids suffer a cultural shock and a lot of hostility when they’re rescued by Juliette’s tunneling operation. After reading Shift I criticised this part of the story as very unlikely and their survival as a big stretch of imagination. Luckily, Dust explains how this happened (in the framework of the Silo world at least). Eventually the kids prove to be one of the most resilient survivors of the whole project.

The last vantage point is provided by Donald who is serving as the head of Silo 1 and communicates with Juliette and Lukas, who is now the head of IT in Silo 18. He tries to decipher how the silos operate, why are all doomed to be destroyed and how to prevent it. At the same time, he’s dying from the exposure to the outside air; his sister helps him.

The biggest turning point comes when Truman, the man behind the project, who Donald shot but put back into a stasis pod, is found and brought back to live. Up to this point, Donald used his privileged status to unfreeze his sister and to operate his mission to save the silos; now he becomes a refugee in a huge underground can who’s running out of time. Eventually, he’s caught but finally gets answers to his most burning questions. However, Silo 18 is filled with poisonous gas and bombed by Truman. Only a handful of people manage to escape from Silo 18 through the newly dug tunnel to Silo 17. Howey is definitely not afraid to kill off characters and many of those who survive the termination of Silo 18 (not many to begin with) don’t last - either emotionally or physically - long anyway.

Spoilers above

The story ends on a bitter-sweet note: some people from Silos 17 and 18 survive their falls and get to explore the world outside (don’t worry, they’re not starting from scratch, it makes sense), the operation is ended, and the other silos are left to live by themselves. Dust is much more fun than Shift, because it brings more action, however both are successful in creating their own unique atmosphere and experience. The whole series is good and I would recommend it to anyone. Less avid readers might enjoy Wool on its own, the rest have to come to grips with Shift and ride out Dust with all its revelations and twists.

After finishing the book, I found out there are other, mostly short, fictions by numerous authors who develop the world further - fill in missing chapters, add points of view of other characters, explore the backstory or use the canvas to develop their own stories in one of the remaining 47 silos. More importantly, Howey encourages his readers to do so! I’ll definitely give some of them a try to find out how good the fanfic can be.