Shift is the sequel to Wool and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.
2345: The human race is living underground. How did we get there and will the world above ever be hospitable again?
Like Wool, Shift was originally published as separate novellas so I’ll discuss them an individual parts first. The First Shift is the highlight, with a fantastic political backstory and creepy senators filling in a lot of the blanks on how the world ended up destroyed and humanity living in silos. It follows the story of Donald, a rather average man who has ended up involved in the silos because of who he knows and an old architectural project that was dismissed as too utilitarian. The very first page tells us that humans discovered their destruction and the way to forget at the same time. Two technologies created for the betterment of humankind that were twisted and turned into their downfall.
The origins story flits back and forth with that of Troy, woken up from a cryogenic sleep for his first shift in Silo 1. It’s interesting to see the silos from the side of those in charge although the stirrings of rebellion are starting to show. Troy’s time is still well before that of Wool, which was quite compact in its timeline despite being over five novellas. Shift, on the other hand, spans centuries. My brain wanted to link it to Wool a bit much and I found it hard to reconcile the timelines with what I already know. Having said that, I really enjoyed the first novella and it was only the next start that I started to struggle.
The Second Shift follows Donald again, interspersed with the story of Mission a young porter who gets involved in the first uprising of Silo 18. That’s the same silo featured in Wool but at a different point in time. The guys in charge want to get to the bottom of why some silos fall and they are looking for the one who remembers. It’s very much the men in charge; the women have been conveniently frozen along with the children. Anna, who was involved with the early planning, only gets woken up because her dad misses her. I think with all the focus on diversity in SFF lately, I was even more aware that Shift completely fails the Bechdel test and literally refrigerates the entire female population of a silo.
The Third Shift continues to follow Donald, who has turned out to be rather a bland character, alongside Jimmy who, finally, has a connection to the first set of novellas. This shift coincides with Juliette’s timeline although I still felt I’d spent a lot of time reading to get to pretty much the same point as before. I had some answers, but not enough for the whole thing to feel a rewarding read. Whereby the high points of Wool for me were the character tableaus, I found the whole characterisation a disappointment in Shift and it was the world building and back story I was reading on for.
Shift is published in the UK by Random House and is now available in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.