This is the sequel to the New York Times best-selling Wool series. It combines the three Shift books into a single audiobook in order to save the listener a few bucks. The saga concludes with Dust, which will be available in late 2013.
In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate.
In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event.
At almost the same moment in humanity's broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall - and the ability to forget it ever happened.
©Lifetime Hugh Howey (P)2013 Hugh Howey
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
I was disappointed that Wool Omnibus was not read by a narrator who was as good as the material so I found it a real pleasure to listen to Shift Omnibus, an even better book IMO, read by the wonderful narrator of one of my favorite series, Riyria Revelations, Tim Gerard Reynolds. This is what audio books are all about for me; take a great book, paired with an appropriate great voice and then revel in the synergy of listening to a good story made even better in the telling.
If you liked Wool, you will almost undoubtedly enjoy Shift because it answers so many questions presented in Wool. Personally, I liked Wool a lot, but I really loved Shift. It is hard to decide how much of that is Howey's writing which has gotten ever more fluid as the story evolves and how much is the great narration by Reynolds. Probably some of both. Howey writes in a style that is very good for audio because he uses a lot of descriptive language; the man can truly paint a vivid picture. EX: Howey describing a character trying to shake off the effects of cold sleep; "Thoughts and memories reluctantly assembled like exhausted soldiers roused from their bunks in the middle of the night and told to form ranks in the freezing rain." And, Reynolds is one of those narrators whose voice pulls you in until you are not really conscious of the narrator at all so the story just flows and you get pictures in your mind almost like a movie.
Although Shift is labeled a sequel to Wool, it is actually almost entirely a prequel (the time periods of the two books start to overlap toward the end of Shift) and provides much of the explanation for the evolution of the "Wooliverse". It would be a crime to give much of the plot away because Shift is just chock full of those "AHA moments" when you suddenly understand something that didn't make sense or was confusing in Wool. I love being witness to real craftsmanship from an author and I could feel it all the way through Shift - Howey mapping out how this crazy society that I saw in Wool could ever have happened - AND making me believe it!
Great characters, suspenseful plot, wildly vivid settings, and a first-rate narrator - what is not to love about this? Can't wait for Dust (the next, last?, in the Wool series) scheduled to be released in August. Fingers crossed that the audio version is released at the same time with this same narrator!
I was so looking forward to this recording. I read Wool Omnibus, which is the first part of the saga in print, because listeners had a poor opinion of that reader. I found it compelling and devoured hundreds of pages in a few days. This recording has Tim Reynolds, who I've loved in other books, so I figured this would be even better. I was disappointed in both the book and its narration;
In contrast to Wool, which takes place over a few weeks, this one takes place over centuries - and it feels like it. There's way too much detail of various characters endlessly enduring in grim environments. There's a plot in the middle that I think was totally unnecessary, apparently to give an idea about the Uprisings mentioned elsewhere. Finally at the very end, the story starts to overlap with the first part of the saga, but by then my interest had waned considerably.
A strong feature of Wool was the opportunity for the reader to figure out what is going on. This one tries to explain it, starting in the 21st century, and I felt that made it less believable. Again there are way too many details of ordinary life in the near future, trying to show how what we have now could lead to the silo world. The whole construction and rationale just doesn't make much sense. Leaving some mystery would have been better.
Some people felt the characters in Wool were flat, but I found them interesting and cared about what happened to them. In Shift, the characters are mostly one-dimensional and mostly passive. My overall feeling listening to this was depression. I had to avoid listening to it before bedtime. Sure, it's a dystopia but the characters could have some human connection and some agency, there's very little of either.
As I said ,I loved Tim Reynolds reading the works of Michael J Sullivan, where he has a mainly English accent. In this one, he tried to sound American and sometimes just sounded weird. For instance, he pronounced "palm" as "pam". You'd be amazed how often that word came up and it jarred me every time. He did a decent job with the various characters but Howey didn't give him a lot to work with.
I rarely regret the hours spent listening to an audiobook, even if it's not the greatest, but this time I did. I will probably read the 3rd installment in print so that if it drags I can skim through it.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
After Wool I didn't expect much from Shift. I did not like Wool much, finding the narration poor and the premise, story and characters quite weak. I only listened to Shift because I bought Wool and Shift at the same time. I was pleasantly surprised to find Shift well narrated and well written with interesting adult characters and a story-line that kept me interested. While the premise remained weak the story and characters made the premise almost believable. I found the difference between Wool and Shift astounding. The tone and style are quite different. I will read the third if I hear it is like Shift and not like Wool.
I love reading/listening to something that I can loose myself in and have a hard time finding reality.
I read Wool last year and decided to listen to Shift about a month ago. I love reading reviews on the books before purchasing to see what others say about it. With that said I already knew that the characters in Wool were not in Shift. I still loved the book. Shift starts to give you some answers (not all answers, but some) and a little history of the Silos. I surprisingly enjoyed the story and the performance was wonderfully done.
I saw a lot of reviews that complained that there was too much detail or too many unnecessary plotlines in this sequel. I didn't think so at all! I felt each chapter brought a little more life to the world and the series as a whole. Were the years with Solo's "friend" necessary? Absolutely not. Did I love them? Absolutely. If you're reading this series for the excitement and the mystery-solving of Wool, I can see how Shift is a disappointment. If you liked Wool because of the characters it introduced and the world it created, I think you'll find Shift just as entertaining.
I was really disappointed with the narration, however, because I loved Reynolds in the Riyria Revelation books. Sadly, he just wasn't a good choice for American accents. The southern Georgia accents were particularly jarring and sometimes slipped into something sounding Scottish.
Middle-aged, married dad of two, living in Northern Burbs of Chicago. Hard Sci Fi addict, and lover of great storytelling. Almost all of my reading is now in audio format.
Full and fair disclosure... I HATE captive hero novels, big brother overlord novels, and prison stories. So the real question is, why in the hell did I buy this book? I don't have a good answer other than to say that, YUP! Still hate 'em.
That said, I will offer my critique.
The novel is very well visualized. F'ing painful, but it's very clear what the author wants you to see. But part of this is the exhaustive detail that Howey puts into every moment he chooses to write about. There's no skipping, by god. He writes every detail.
It's nice that the main character isn't whipped up from the New York Times Best Seller recipe. He's very unique. But god, what a whuss. If he 'cried' and 'the tears streamed down his cheek' one more time, I was going to reach in through my iPhone and slap him. There's got to be an app for that. He's also completely blind to every, single one of the patently obvious ominous warnings of impending doom.
I just can't get into bottling humanity in a thermos and seeing what happens, so you can tell the threadbare parable of 'free will: good / big brother: bad.' Well, no sh_t. Pretty sure we all know that. Ayn Rand put the cherry on that pie, then shoved every last gooey morsel down our throats, so unless you have something SERIOUSLY compelling to add to that message, please move on.
I just couldn't do it. I gave it two chances. It finally wore me down when a second, upcoming hero in the book got buried under another mountainous overburden of suspicion that absolutely no human being could ever escape.
What a disaster. 100 years and 100 pages too long!
Hope no one reads this first, because I'm sure they will never read the great Wool.
Shift is the prequel to Wool and provides the origin story as well as filling in some back stories to events in Wool. Specifically, the tale "shifts" among several different time frames as early as 2050 with another interlude at 2110 and the 23rd century as well as several decades immediately preceding Wool (24th century). The bulk of the tale is through the lens of Donald who is responsible for the design of the silos, but Donald was never let in on the entire master plan and slowly realizes its full intent over the several centuries (cryogenic sleep is standard in silo 1). We also watch Solo develop as a frightened teenager during the silo 17 uprising through 30 years of his isolation. Finally, the generation of silo 18 preceding Wool's time frame is presented. The story ends at the same point in time as Wool concluded.
Besides cryogenic freezing sleep, nanotech is offered as the basis for the original silo raison d'etre. There's a continual focus on drug induced amnesia regarded as central to the success of the enterprise, but this continues to be weak. In the end, Donald realizes that he must deal with the aftermath of a poorly designed plan to save mankind from its own destruction without being responsible for another round of destruction.
The narration is adequate, but almost painfully slow. Much of the story dwells on minor aspects of life in the silos with much rumination by several characters. Given that the story spans several centuries, the author and narrator convey that slow passage of time.
Let me start by saying that I LOVED "Wool" and "Half Way Home," and I think Hugh Howey is among the most talented writers of science fiction alive today.
That being said, what the heck happened with this book?! All the same parts are there from the "Wool" installment -- the claustrophobic confinement of entire civilizations into huge Silos, the instant death outside the Silo, the politics, secrets and resentments of those trapped within the Silos, and so forth.
But in this book, it's like Hugh Howey got trapped in a "silo" of his own making. The whole book revolves, inexplicably, around three not-very-engaging characters -- there's Donald, the Georgia Congressman-turned-architect-turned-Silo-chief, there's Thurman, the Georgia Senator-turned-apocalyptic-prophet/lunatic and then there's Anna (Thurman's daughter), the MIT engineer-turned-desperate-girlfriend. None of these people were very interesting to follow, and yet that's what the entire book was about. With all of the possible directions that Hugh could have taken this story, why confine the narrative to just these three? Being cooped up for hundreds of pages with just these characters was like a prison sentence.
Also, I know this probably doesn't bother most people as much as it bothers me, but I find obvious factual or technical mistakes in science fiction writing to be really inexcusable. I mean, it's FICTION, which means that the reader accepts the basic untruth or premise of the story, but having done so, the author's duty is then to get the rest of the facts right (or at least offer a plausible explanation for why these things are different). In this story, you have a US Congressman acting as an architect for a Federal building project and a US Senator in charge of the building project. This is simply impossible under our present form of government, as anyone with any background in the area can tell you. Has our form of government changed by 2049, which is when the first part of the story is set? Hugh Howey doesn't say. You can also read in the story about a meeting between a US Congressman and a Senator in Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle while Secret Service agents circle nearby. But Congressmen and Senators aren't protected by Secret Service agents, and in any event, none of them have meetings in Kramerbooks, ever. And even though a part of the story is set in the year 2049, why don't any characters use any technological devices that existed after 2005? One character even spends time setting up a huge desktop computer in an office, as if people in 2049 are all still using Dell desktop machines from 1993!
Anyway, I'm glad that I got through the book, because I'm looking forward to reading "Dust" in August (the third installment of the series). I suppose if you're like me (a huge Hugh Howey fan), you're going to read this book no matter what the reviews are, but for the casual reader, stick with "Wool" and some of Hugh's other, better works.
This book is very bleak, in that there is little to no hope for the characters beyond their sleep, eat, survive routine. That goes for both the Solo/Jimmy storyline and the Donald/Troy storyline. There is only the barest hint that there is hope for humanity as Solo and Donald descend into madness, but still a fascinating idea somehow.
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