In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate.
In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event.
At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened.
Everyone knows that Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus is one of the best Science-Fiction/Dystopian novels out there. Oh? You didn’t know? Well, now you do (and this is your cue to get that book first before reading this one). It’s a book that shows a scary world contained in silos buried underground – vertical, metallic vessels that house hundreds to thousands of people. Wool 1, which is the first story you’ll read in the whole Wool Omnibus, left me in such an unstable emotional state that it made me ponder, wonder and philosophize for days. No freakin’ joke. So when I found out this author wrote THREE more stories right after the first five, I was ecstatic (and got me to buy all three impulsively again on Amazon… sigh). I just finished this one and while it wasn’t at the level of the the first five, Wool Omnibus, as a whole, it was still very, very good.
One of the reasons why you need to read this after Wool Omnibus is because it’s a prequel. Years and years back before all the shit happened. Years back when everything was still normal and people still lived and thrived outside in the open air. This is the story of Congressman Donald Keene, who, because of his architectural skills, grudgingly found himself and a few others involved in a classified project. Suffice to say, this project is the one that would change the world as we know it forever.
First Shift is set in two different POVs – that of Donald, set in 2049-2050 and that of Troy, set in 2110-2111, in which each chapter alternates between the two. Usually this bothers me, as unless it’s in a first person POV, I don’t like this kind of set-up, but surprisingly it worked on me. I think it’s because both perspectives have different… paces. Donald’s POV, for example, has a sense of urgency in it. Out of the blue, he’s suddenly given a top-secret project to overlook, and despite having such power, details about the project isn’t given to him, so he’s pretty much in the dark. But as readers, we all know there’s more to this project. As readers, we know there’s some sort of conspiracy going on, as having already read the first 5. But despite having this knowledge and sense of knowing, there’s still so much suspense and urgency in the events that lead to it, and you can’t help but feel for the characters.
The other perspective set in the future after the post-apocalyptic event has a different pacing. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that this takes place after after the apocalyptic event has happened and everyone else are now in the silos. Here, there isn’t really any urgency at all. Troy wakes up from a freezing and has no recollection of what happened before whatsoever. All he knows is that he has a job as the “mayor” of Silo #1, and he has to make sure that nothing goes wrong. He feels something isn’t right, but he continues doing his job anyway. In this world, the silo constituents are given pills by doctors that make them forget previous events (memory eraser of some sort), but after certain incidents, Troy has decided not to take them, which led to an unfortunate end (which you’ll find out soon enough… so READ THE BOOK!)
Apart from that, Hugh Howey’s writing prowess is still impressive as ever. He really has this uncanny ability to make his stories seem so real, and I guess that is the reason why I found Wool Omnibus so scary and fascinating at the same time. One thing I like about the whole series is that it’s creative. It’s not a rehash of overly used ideas and themes. He takes something, gives it something new, and creates a whole new world out of it, complete with excellent narration, tension, transitioning and especially world-building. This author is definitely one of my favorites, and I’ll forever support his works!
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