Silo is a series of post-apocalyptic science-fiction books written by Hugh Howey. The series originally started in 2011 with the short story entitled “Wool” which was later published together with four sequel novellas with the same name. The first short story was made available through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, after which it grew in popularity resulting in Howey writing more entries for the series. Until I was reading up on the background of these novels for the purpose of this review I was unaware that the stories had started out life as short stories but now that I know that the style of the books makes a lot more sense.
I am generally a fan of all things sci-fi and enjoy reading the ways in which you humans imagine the world is going to ultimately get screwed up. Nuclear war, disease,
over population, these seem to be the usual ideas. I can’t honestly think of a book written after the wake of a devastating alien attack in which the conquerors took everything of value from the
Earth then abandoned it to the humans that were kept alive as slaves for the invading race. Thinking about it that might actually be an interesting idea for a story, as you know I do like to write
novels and short stories so perhaps that is an idea I will pursue at a later stage.
Still lets remained focussed for the purposes of this review and look at the Silo series, as before when I have done reviews of series I will give a run down of what happens in all three then talk about them.
So, let us being with Book 1 – Wool
The story opens with Holston, a Silo’s sheriff who has become convinced that there was something suspicious about the events surrounding his wife's death. The air outside the silo is toxic and yet Holston's wife demanded to be let outside believing that the desolate world they view through cameras mounted onto the outside of the silo is a lie. Holston becomes convinced that his wife was right and the images have been faked in order to keep the people in the silo, he ventures outside to prove that the air outside can be survived.
Next we jump to the relationship between Jahns, the Silo's mayor, and Marnes, the Deputy Sheriff. The pair venture into the silo’s depths seeking out a replacement for Holston, this quest leads them into conflict with the silo’s IT Department that effectively run things with the mayor being just a figurehead. A mechanic from Maintenance named Juliette is asked to be the new Sheriff to replace Holston.
Juliette takes up her duties as Sheriff but quickly runs afoul of the IT Department for not following their instructions. She is sent out to Clean the cameras on the outside which is basically a death sentence for questioning IT's rules. However, when she gets out her suit doesn’t fail and she is able to see the world for what it is.
She realises that the reason people always Clean when they go outside is because the feed within the suit’s faceplate gives the illusion that the world is indeed alive once more and they want the people in the silo to see it by cleaning the cameras. That, however, is a lie. The world is dead, and the atmosphere is toxic, the environmental suits are designed to fail only giving someone enough time to clean before the seals give out and they die. Juliette, however, has a suit that was built by friends of hers in Mechanical so it does not fail and she is able to venture further than anyone before her ever has, even managing to reach another Silo…something that the people living in her own silo didn't even know existed.
Mechanical and IT declare war on one another after news that Juliette did not Clean nor did she die spreads throughout the Silo. Meanwhile Juliette discovers an abandoned Silo, filled with corpses, and seemingly deserted, but it is not as deserted as she initially believes…
Book 2 – Shift
The events of this book serve as something of a prequel to the events of Wool, in that we learn how the silos came to be constructed, who built them as well as how the world got all fucked-up.
The book skips through time from current present day-ish to centuries in the future and charts what the purpose of the silos actually seems to be.
Characters from the original story also begin to link up to people in the second book.
Book 3 – Dust
This is the book in which the faceless people who control the fates of everyone in the silos comes to a head. Allies within that silo aim to help Juliette and her friends, however threats come from all sides as people within the silo stage an uprinsing that threatens to destroy them all.
The last hope for survival seems to be to venture out into the toxic atmosphere in the hopes that out there lies some salvation, a secret that those who know the truth will go to any lengths to protect…
Okay so first things first like I said above I was not aware that the first novel started as a series of short stories, and as a result I found the initial book very, very slow to get going. The first few chapters were about Holston beginning to believe that the world beyond the silo was a fabrication, which it then turns out no it wasn’t, and he's now dead.
Second section, the mayor and the deputy sheriff confronting feelings for one another that they were never allowed to explore because of their positions. Then she gets poisoned by mistake (as the poison was meant for him) and dies. Can’t honestly remember if he dies as well but basically another 40+ pages and two characters we’ve been getting to know are dead or irrelevant to the story.
Finally things start picking up some momentum when we get to Juliette, but it takes an age to get there. Not that I stopped reading. I was interested enough to see where the story went but I was getting heavy Fallout vibes.
In case you don’t know (and in all honesty I haven't played a Fallout game but I do have one that I need to get round to playing) the Fallout games deal with the inhabitants of various Vaults designed to protect people in the event of nuclear war emerging into the apocalyptic wasteland. From what I understand a lot of these vaults were also designed to test the inhabitants in various ways, pumping psychotropic drugs into the ventilation system was one, killing one person every year was another, dividing people up into arbitrary groups, and so on. As best I can understand these things were done under the guise of scientific experiments but seemed to have been more done for the hell of it.
The Silo books reminded me of one of those Vaults.
As a courtesy…
So the majority of story centres on people in these silos (Silo 18 specifically) and we learn as they do that there are many other silos out there. Each one is
basically run in the same way, there is a mayor, a sheriff, but IT runs everything knowing much more about the world outside than anyone else. The thing is that the world outside is only messed up
around the area of the silos and is fine everywhere else, so what is the point in keeping everyone down there??
Having a bunker to protect from a threat to safeguard lives is one thing but as the main silo – Silo 1 – will release a poison gas into any silo that tries to break away from IT’s rules, why not let people out??
I just don’t get what the point of the silos was beyond protecting from the initial attack, and like Fallout seems to only be in existence for the hell of it.
Plus what I found extremely irritating was the fact that discussing the outside was taboo and anyone that questioned it was sent out to Clean (die). However, in the first book Juliette makes it to a neighbouring silo and safely back again, thus proving that there is more than one silo and that the neighbouring one is empty. She is elected mayor at the end of the first book and it seems that the control of IT has been restricted as her lover, Lukas becomes its new head with the previous being sent out to Clean.
In the third book when we rejoin Juliette she has managed to unearth a massive drilling machine, which she intends to use to dig her way through to Silo 17 (the one she visited). If she can do that then her people will have double the space to live in, they can bring 17 back from the dead, and with more space they can do away with the lottery.
Progress beyond the restrictions seemed possible…but, no. The same people who were leaping for joy at her return have conveniently turned against her, don’t believe that she made it to another silo, and are preparing another revolt. They don’t think they should be digging because it is against the taboo, yet it has been proven that the taboo is bullcrap. I don’t understand why people are refusing to believe it is true even after they manage to reach Silo 17 thus proving that everything Juliette said was in fact the truth. It just smacks of trying to keep the story going when it didn’t need to, or when it could have been much shorter.
The ending also left a lot of unanswered questions…
Basically Juliette those who support her and survived after Silo 1 tries to kill off everyone in Silo 18, decide to take their chances outside. The character from the second book, Donald, has been trying to tell them what happened to the world but to them he is a voice on the end of a radio, and none of them know if he is genuinely trying to help them or tricking them into making mistakes so they can all be killed. It turns out that once they get far enough away from the silos the world is fine, and they decide how they are going to live their lives.
What left me scratching my head a bit is the fact that Donald sacrifices himself to destroy Silo 1 thus ending the control they had on the other Silos, allowing those silos to presumably govern as they see fit. However, there was no indication that they are planning on venturing back into the dead zone around the silos to inform the other silos that the world is not destroyed. Nor do they say they will go back for their own people who decided to stay put in 17 rather than go with Juliette. It seems that the survivors of Silo 18 have basically just decided to let the other Silos and their inhabitants to their fates, being trapped beneath the earth under a blanket of toxins that will kill them if they venture outside without strong enough suits to protect them.
The whole trilogy struck me as a short story that had been stretched, and stretched, and stretched to make up a trilogy. Personally I don’t think the middle story added much and not knowing who Donald is or his back-story could have added to the question of whether or not to trust him. Sadly we know he is trying to help. Which means we are reading about characters arguing with or threatening him when he is genuinely trying to keep them alive.
Fundamentally though is I don’t get the point of keeping people in the silos, the toxins were released to kill the enemies of the US, and now centuries later the rest of the world has recovered but the main man in charge of killing the world, overseeing the construction of the silos, and wiping out anyone who challenges the rules is still keeping them down there, why??? It is established that over time each of the 50odd silos are going to be exterminated until only 1 remains, again, why?? If the entire world’s population is dead and only those in the silos survived then why not dump them each on a different continent or island and let them get on with it???
Like I said I did stick with the books and was interested to see how they turned out but the plot of the Fallout games was ringing heavily in my ears the whole time. I struggled to understand the why behind the villain’s motivations, and because I didn’t get the why I didn’t really care how things ultimately resolved. I cannot say the books were bad, they were just slow, plus they could have easily been condensed down to two and lost nothing. There wasn’t enough original material for me here to really recommend them, I think a Thumbs Down is too harsh, so I will leave my Thumb Horizontal.
5/10 – The Silo books work hard to create a world in which the fate of many is held in the hands of the few. However, that is not an original concept. There was a lot of rehashing ideas from the first book, and the back story of Donald in Book 2 would have created a much more interesting character in Book 3 if we hadn’t know what his motivations for helping were, or even if he was actually helping or setting Silo 18 up to fail.