Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: "First Shift - Legacy (Wool #6)" by Hugh Howey

Review of First Shift - Legacy (Wool #6) by Hugh Howey

There are several marks of a good storyteller. If you finish a work satisfied with the story just ended, yet desperately wanting more - not feeling cheated, yet not feeling as if you've gotten your fill - you've found a good writer. If the plot twists and turns keep you guessing, and thinking, and completely caught off guard without tricking you via deus ex machina or other bizarre machinations, fool you yet leave you realizing the clues were there in plain sight all along - you've found a good writer. And thankfully, there are plenty of men and women able to provide quality reading experiences in meeting these criteria.

What Hugh Howey has managed to accomplish with the first installment of his new Wool / Silo trilogy provides yet another attribute that designates a skilled writer - he's managed to create suspense and tension with a story in which devoted readers of the first five Wool stories (the Omnibus) know, in some fashion, the ending. The dystopian future world of underground Silos, the only thing protecting humanity from air and earth poisoned beyond livability, had to come about in some fashion, and the latter volumes in that series give enough clues that we know what must happen at the end.

Yet the exact nature, the why, is still a mystery, and that is what draws us in.

First Shift: Legacy tells us the story of Troy, one of the earliest leaders of Silo 1, as he awakens from cryogenic sleep to live in and lead this core Silo, the one all the others turn to for advice, guidance, and orders. His is a life of routine, of scripted days and more scripted responses, and many pills provided by doctors. Somehow, Troy feels an emptiness, a need to rebel, a need to chase the vague hint of a memory to find a mystery that haunts his waking and sleeping hours.

We are also shown the story of Donald, a twenty-first century member of the US House of Representatives, who is elected to Congress on promises to clean up corruption and conspiracy, and immediately finds himself drawn into the greatest in the nation's history. He becomes part of a team designing a solution to the nation's nuclear waste problem, a means of safely disposing of fuel rods now depleted yet dangerous, a project directed by the powerful Senator Thurman from Georgia, a man undergoing regular nano-bath designed to repair his aging body and extend his lifetime far beyond historical standards. Donald's job: as a former architect, design self-sustaining structures that personnel working at the containment facility can live in for a year or more should the containment system fail. The buildings are massive, 150 stories high, and come with a strange requirement: build them down into the ground, not up into the sky. Fifty are built, one per state. The project brings him into contact with Anna, the Senator's daughter and Donald's one-time love interest, much to the chagrin of his patient wife, Helen. By the time Donald realizes what's going on, what the Senator and Anna (among others) truly have planned, it's too late.

Howey's ability to bring characters to life, have them struggle internally to find answers that lead them to the truth they seek, is truly memorable. You'll leave this book not only with a deeper appreciation of the depth of the Wool / Silo world, but a desire to read more about Donald, Troy, Helen, Anna, and others. You'll want to go read Second Shift: Order, right now, because though First Shift ends as a complete story, you're left wanting more.

And that's the sign of a truly great writer.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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