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Book Review(s): Shift and Dust

I have finally finished all the Silo World books by Hugh Howey – all of them written to date, that is (if you’re reading this, Mr. Howey, I would be quite happy to read more!).  The series began with Wool, which I already reviewed here.  Next in the series is Shift, and the (current) end of the saga, Dust.

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The last two books were every bit as good as the first book – engaging characters, interesting plot twists, and a uniquely fascinating world.  The last two books jump around a little more, giving you the story from long before, during, and immediately after the events in Wool.  Howey artfully jumps around between the events leading up to the creation of the silo, current events in the silo, and a few scenes in between those two periods to tie it all together.

You do finally get to find out how and why the silo was made (and who was behind it).  And that’s all I can really say without spoiling it for you!

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Book Review: Etiquette and Espionage

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In case you couldn’t tell from the profile pic, I am, among all the other things I squee about on a regular basis, a pretty big fan of Steampunk.  I also fully admit that since I tend to enjoy all books, I enjoy plenty of YA books – I don’t really go in for the snooty ‘I’m to grown up for YA‘ thing.  Plus, you know, I have a preschooler, so the books in our house gravitate away from ‘grownup’ material pretty frequently.  Like if I have to read a Llama Llama book one more time I might scream.  But I digress.

I have really enjoyed all of Gail Carriger’s books, which not only involve steampunk but also the supernatural.  The main cast contains werewolves, vampires, preternaturals, and plain old humans.  Her books are fun, slightly ridiculous, and have very likeable characters.  Also, many of the characters have completely ridiculous names, which I find oddly endearing – normally that kind of thing would just annoy the snot out of me.

They’re not exactly high falutin’ literature, but these books are solidly in my ‘reading for enjoyment’ category.  I thoroughly enjoyed Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series about the indomitable preternatural Alexia Tarabotti.  And now I find that I am actually enjoying her YA series, set a few decades earlier in the same universe, even more.

The first book in this series, Etiquette and Espionage, follows fourteen-year-old Sophronia Temminnick away to a finishing school.  She is sent away by her mother, who can’t deal with her daughter’s troubling mix of mischief, brains, and tendency to speak her mind.

The school turns out to be a very different kind of finishing school than either Sophronia or her mother anticipated.  In addition to learning the finer points of fashion, landing a husband, and keeping a proper household, the young ladies at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality learn how to be spies and assassins.

The school is housed in a giant dirigible.  It is staffed by a vampire, a French inventor, a werewolf-soldier, a nun, a woman of ill repute, a fluff-headed headmistress who has no idea that her school is not a regular finishing school, impish lads in the engine room, and a whole lot of mechanical servants.

Sophronia starts and ends the book in heaps of trouble, and I’ll let you read it to find out how and why.  Overall, it’s a very fun read – but if you don’t appreciate steampunk, teenagers, silliness, and British humor, give it a miss.  I would especially recommend this to anyone looking for a YA book with a strong female protagonist, that is not in the current dystopian fashion.  It’s not Hogwarts, but Mlle Geraldine’s is certainly a school I would have had fun attending.

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Book Review: Wool

 

 

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I don’t often gush about books, especially post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian ones. I know those are all the rage these days, but I normally prefer the fictional worlds I escape into to be a little less dark.  But this one I’m going to warn you up front about: there will be a little bit of gushing here about Wool.

Wool is a page-turner, but not in the cliché, “I just couldn’t put it down” way.   It was more of an, “Ok, I’m going to put this book down and think about it a while before devouring some more pages” kind of way.  And I adore books that make me think.  That’s the main reason why my preferred genres are sci-fi and mystery.  I like wondering how they made a new technology, figuring out the motivations of the characters, exploring new social structures, and the classic case of whodunit.

Originally written in five separate self-published novellas by author Hugh Howey, Wool, and the sequel I am now plunging through just as rapidly, have made quite the sensation.  I’m probably rather late to the game with this review, as I am with most TV, movies and books – I’m a busy person who tends to wait until such things are free or discounted anyway (for me that means available on Amazon Prime, or as a library download).  Or, in the case of this book, I wait until several friends have insisted it’s soooo good and I just have to read it.  And they were right.

This book is both a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel and a mystery, so it was particularly irresistible for me.  I won’t give away any of the mystery bits here – no spoilers – but will give you some of the basics.  Humans are living in a massive underground silo after some disaster made the Earth uninhabitable.  They’ve been down there for a long time, somewhere in the hundreds of years range.

Howey breaks the standard storytelling mold of modern bestsellers and gives us some wonderfully three-dimensional, realistically flawed, and very likeable protagonists.  Starting with the young-ish sherriff,  his aging deputy and equally aging mayor, the focus of the story gradually shifts over to a brilliant mechanic and her counterpart, a younger man in IT with divided loyalties.

I love that the story doesn’t follow a single person, and that we get to know the characters so well and so quickly.  It’s also refreshing to read dystopian fiction that’s (for once) not about angst-riddled teenagers or people killed for sport.

The mystery part is drawn out in an agonizingly good way.  I desperately wanted to know what the big secrets were – how they got into the silo, what was outside the silo, what caused the destruction in the first place, who was keeping the secrets and why.  Some of those questions I will have to finish reading the sequel to finally find answers to, and some of them were answered by the end of Wool.

The worldbuilding in Wool is fantastic and detailed.  Really deep thought and imagination went into how a society with fixed resources would function – things like the lotteries for having children because the population has no way to expand; apprenticeships (shadowing) being a necessity of life to train the next generation; a complex system for currency, goods and services; paper and wood being exotic and expensive, and how very tough travel is in a massive place where there are lots and lots of stairs, but no elevators.

There’s also an interesting social structure ranked by the floor you live/work on: the topside folks, mid-levels, and ‘downbelow’ types stratified into classes where the higher up you live, the more highly you’re regarded.

And of course most of the action and conflict center around how you keep people from going crazy or breaking all the rules in place to keep order in such a place.

What I particularly loved about reading this book is how deeply I got into the heads of the characters and their world.  I wondered what I would do in their shoes.  I thought about where I would fit into that society.  I like it when a book makes me do that.

Overall, an excellent read and I’ll post another review when I’m done with Shift and have had some time to absorb it.

Have you read this book?  What did you think?

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