22. ‘Dust’ by Hugh Howey

Dust is the third and final instalment in Hugh Howey’s Silo series. At the beginning of this year I read Wool, the first book, and I absolutely loved it. Last month I got round to reviewing the second instalment, Shift, and I found it a bit disappointing, mainly because it didn’t really feature any of the characters I enjoyed from the first book. I was hoping that Dust would be a return to form. In a way it was, but it didn’t give me the solid ending I was hoping for.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

dust hugh howey

This book returns to Silo 18, in which Jules is mayor and is trying to dig her way back to Silo 17. It was during her exile in that silo that she befriended a group of people (including Solo), who had survived their silo ‘going dark’. In Dust also get to see inside the all-powerful Silo 1, through the characters of Donald and Charlotte, a brother-sister duo who are trying to stop the ultimate goal of the silo project: to kill everyone and leave only one silo alive.

Action sequences are Howey’s strong suit, and he does an excellent job of creating panicked, claustrophobic situations that make your heart race as you read. He’s also not afraid to cause irreversible damage: Thurman in Silo 1 wakes up and almost immediately destroys Silo 18, the home of our heroes. We learn that silos are ‘ended’ with toxic gas (filled with destructive nanobots), and in the chaos of Silo 18 there are only a few survivors (not including Jules’ lover, Lukas, who I thought would make a movie-style reappearance at the end, and was both gratified and disappointed when he did not). Ultimately most of the main characters escape overland, before Silo 1’s evil plan can be completed, far enough to escape the toxic cloud that surrounds all the silos. Outside they find supplies intended for the lucky surviving silo, and a lush green land that they can live in, in the open air.

A nice ending, and certainly what I was hoping for, but the story that gets us there does have some problems, mainly in the form of loose ends. There is a group of religious nuts that manage to escape the gassed Silo 18, but nothing really comes of them; they could just as easily have been left out. Charlotte is a fairly major character in Silo 1, who I thought would prove crucial to the rescue of our heroes, but she just sort of meets up with them at the end and that’s it. Jules formulates a revenge plot against Silo 1 and then never does it. When they all find clean air and lovely grass, they set off to build a new life and it never seems to cross anyone’s mind that they could go back and maybe save some more people.

As for the reasoning behind the whole silo project, I don’t really get it. It was explained to some extent, but it wasn’t exactly clear. By the end I was still wondering why Thurman wanted to kill off every silo but one, and why they were all forced to live underground surrounded by a gas cloud for 250 years, when everything else outside was perfectly fine. Essentially, it didn’t feel like the series tied up neatly, and it didn’t feel like Howey had known where he was going with the story from the very beginning. I think this series spent all of its best bits in the first book, leaving the rest to tangle itself up and then sort of peter out.

This is a well-written trilogy that should probably have been one slightly longer book. The excitement and uniqueness of the first book is hard to replicate, but if you want a series that is solid throughout, this isn’t it.

“Well, if it ain’t the beginning of one thing, I would hazard to say it spells the end of another.”

Have you read this series? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Want to read this? You can buy the book here.

What do you think?

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