Dust by Hugh Howey
Dust is the final book in Hugh Howey’s Wool trilogy, and offers a worthy conclusion to the series, even if it’s not without its faults.
Dust picks up on both the Silo 18 narrative of Wool and the Silo 1 narrative from Shift. In Silo 18, our protagonist Juliette has been elected mayor, and is seeking to dig her way through to Silo 17 to rescue Solo and the children still trapped there. There’s significant resistance though, with a large number doubting Juliette’s story entirely, including the existence of other Silos. In Silo 1, Donald and Charlotte are reeling from their discovery of green land outside the Silos, so Donald plots their escape, as well as the downfall of the entirety of Operation 50.
For a book that’s a fair bit shorter than its predecessor, it’s not brilliantly paced. The first half drags, particularly on the Silo 18 side of things. I would have liked to see more from Silo 1, as Donald and Charlotte appealed to me as protagonists more than Juliette and Lukas. Towards the second half, things ratchet up considerably, and the pace stays high. I suspect that these pacing issues aren’t really Howey’s fault, but more an unavoidable side-effect of the series of internet novellas being anthologised as a novel. These books look like novels, so it’s easy to forget that they’re not, so perhaps I’m judging them by the wrong standard.
The dialogue can get a little bit cheesy at time, but by and large Howey’s writing is evocative and atmospheric. In my opinion, the peak of Howey’s writing came in the claustrophobic, melancholy sections focusing on ‘Troy’ in Silo 1 towards the beginning of Shift, and there aren’t really any points in Dust that quite reach that level. The ending is very well written though, with Howey really inciting a strong emotional response without resorting to mawkish clichés.
There isn’t really a huge amount in interesting character development in Dust. The only character who really grows or changes is Solo, but this mostly happens ‘off-screen’ as it were. His chapters in Shift were some of my favourites in the series, so I was sad to see his role limited in Dust. Juliette and Donald are a pair of good protagonists, but they both lack that edge that can make a character really leap off the page.
This review probably reads more negatively than I intended it to. Dust is a good book, and a worthy conclusion to the ‘Wool Trilogy’, but I nonetheless felt that it was on the verge of being something more. The Wool Trilogy is very good, and I’d certainly recommend it to any fans of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, but it’s not the masterpiece that some have proclaimed.