Completed 12/5/2020, Reviewed 12/7/2020
This was one of the most tedious books I’ve read in a long while. I was surprised at this because it has a lot of fans. In fact, the book was originally self-published as short stories and novellas and then after huge success, the stories were combined into one omnibus when it was finally picked up by a major publisher. The author went on to write two more books in what’s now called the Silo series. But I just didn’t like it. The pacing as mostly painstakingly slow. The only parts that felt like they moved were the beginning and the end. I didn’t connect with most of the characters. And most of all, it felt derivative: the old meme of people living underground after an apocalyptic event.
The action mostly takes place in an underground silo. The story begins when the sheriff asks to go outside. This is a treasonous statement, and therefore is condemned to go into the poisonous outside to clean the cameras that monitor the conditions of the outside. The ranking deputy picks Juliette, a mechanic from far down in the silo to become the new sheriff. The deputy and the mayor go to retrieve her and she accepts the job, only to be ousted by the head of IT, the second most powerful person in the silo after the mayor. Juliette is then condemned to a cleaning as well, but survives, causing an uprising in the silo.
This is one of those books where an inanimate object is itself one of the characters. The silo is described in so much detail that it has a characterization of its own. This was what made it so tediously slow for me. We learn most about the silo when the mayor and the deputy descend from the top floors, where they live and work, down the massive stairwell to fetch Juliette from Mechanical in the depths of the silo. We discover the layout of the silo, the class differentiation amongst the inhabitants, and most importantly, the location and power of the IT department. This is the sort of description you’d expect from an author like Arthur C. Clarke, who always seems to pull it off. I felt like Howey did not. It just wasn’t interesting enough, nor did it evoke any sense of wonder.
The human characters where okay. I thought they were actually well-developed, but I didn’t find myself identifying with most of them. The only character I really liked was Solo, the sole survivor of Silo #17. He’s not particularly well-developed, but I liked that he was borderline crazy after living alone for thirty years or so. He had personality whereas the other major characters were just flat. I also liked Lukas, Juliette’s love interest, who must decide whether he sides with the uprising or the establishment. Solo and Lukas added color to what I felt were mostly grey, flat characters.
The writing was actually not too bad. I felt like it was geared toward young adults, even though this it isn’t about teens. It just has that YA feel. The writing style wasn’t simple, just straight-forward, almost journalistic. There are no luscious prosy descriptions of anything. The dialogue was realistic. I didn’t fumble through convoluted conversations. And even though the book is comprised of five short stories and novellas, it holds up as a single novel. But there was just nothing to absorb me into the story.
I think one of the biggest problems for me was the derivative nature of the plot. People living underground after an apocalyptic event. It’s been done before in books and movies. Maybe the author was thinking, “I’ll take this trope and give it a twist, add a revolution.” The twist was simply not enough to breathe any life into the story.
I give this book two stars out of five. While some aspects were good, it didn’t work for me overall. The sum was less than the parts. There’s a good amount of resolution at the end, but clearly, the author intended to keep the story going. I have no intention of reading any more of this series, though. I want to find out what happens to Solo, but not enough to wade through more details about the silo and its uninteresting inhabitants.