[Read as an ebook from the public library.]
Note: This is the omnibus version, which collects the original five novellas into one edition.
I didn’t expect this book to hit me in quite the ways it did. This has clearly been the year of sci-fi for me and I’ve run the gamut from Becky Chambers loveliness to the quirkiness of Murderbot to this, the comparative grimdark of the Silo. I usually don’t go in for post-apocalyptic literature, because I don’t need to be more depressed, but this book kind of captured my imagination and held it through the other two books in the series.
The plot, as revealed din this book, is that people are living in a large silo after something bad happened to the outside world at some point in the past. Occasionally people are sent outside as a punishment or of their own volition, and those people inevitably die. As a result, you learn not to ask too many questions about things, or think too hard about how life should be, or how it might have been before, or dwell too much on the outside. There are a few main characters: Sheriff Holston, still grieving his wife who went outside three years ago. Mayor Jahns, responsible for all the lives in the Silo. Deputy Marnes, Sheriff Holston’s second in command. Juliette Nichols, a young mechanic in the bowels of the Silo who knows exactly what it takes to keep everything working. Bernard, the head of IT, who maintains the Silo computers and information systems. Lukas, a young tech in IT who gazes at the stars and who is tapped to learn more about the inner workings of the Silo. Each character knows different things, but the larger truths are kept from all of them, and the closer they get to discovering those, the more dangerous things get.
This is probably the strongest book in the series, even though it tells you the least. Howey does a good job of setting up the world and leaves you wanting to know more — enough so that I read the second and third books really quickly while still coasting on the strength of this one. You’re put in the position of one of the Silo residents in that you only have a few pieces of the larger puzzle — you know there’s got to be a reason for what happened before, and why things are happening the way they are now. The world is also never so grim that you want to escape from it — the Silo is recognizably human and there are moments of genuine warmth. Juliette is also a relatable heroine with a good balance of strength and stubbornness. She isn’t flawless but she isn’t a mess either. She’s capable and a bit of a badass while still often suffering moments of self doubt. She’s a good surrogate to follow through most of the story, and her interactions with Lukas are sweeter than I expected.
I was a little disappointed with the following two books in the series, but this one at least was a fairly quick read that could stand by itself if you’re content to be left with a lot of questions about what happened and why.