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BOOK REVIEW: Dust by Hugh Howey

REVIEW SUMMARY: Satisfying conclusion to a remarkable science fiction series


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The end to a post-apocalyptic epic where people have survived underground in silos but are finally going to find out whether they can survive in the wasteland above.

PROS: Has the feel of a science fiction series we’ll tell our grandchildren about; shows improvement in pacing from previous books in series; surprise ending.
CONS: Lacked enough surviving characters to keep us as engaged as we were in earlier books of the series; subplot about the endangered child was not rewarding enough.

Wool‘s first line, “The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death…” sets the reader of this series into a common frame of mind where happiness is outside one’s reach, but where the person experiencing that separation refuses to give up hope. There’s a reason why Mr. Howey often signs his books, “Dare to hope.” Holston is just one of many characters who come to realize, possibly too late, what really matters, and experience the force within that pushes us toward achieving happiness, even at great cost.

As someone who has experienced depression, I know what it’s like to wonder where this force is that pushes me toward happiness; sometimes it feels like I’m less than those around me because that push is gone. Mr. Howey puts characters in places where they pass through whatever fog has kept them from experiencing this motivating force, and then we share their thrill as they run full-spirit ahead toward the embodiment of their hope.

Some characters don’t make it, but the beauty of fiction is that we share their enthusiasm, and where they fail, we take the baton and continue the race, inspired by the heart-thumping emotions they evoked.

This series started with a novelette called “Wool“, which the author has offered permanently free in eBook format. Have a peak and see for yourself how his characters will move you. I’m confident you’ll join me at the finish line of Dust‘s conclusion, eager to share the word for a long time how much you loved this series.

It is interesting to see how the books differed. Wool remains my favorite. I read that so quickly and with such fascination and emotional tension that it will go down as one of my top three books. The middle lagged a little in the setup before the major conflict, but other than that it was flawless. The story was poetic, heart-wrenching and thrilling all in a fascinating underground dystopia. Shift, Book Two in the Silo Saga, started out strong and had some more powerfully emotional moments as our main character from the past dealt with career versus time with his wife, and didn’t realize what he was missing until it was too late. His fight to get her back tore my heart out and made me a better person. The second storyline of the porter was also a great and emotional experience within the silo culture, but the third storyline lagged a lot and the end was really hard to read through.

With Dust, the pacing is even better than the previous two books. Our surviving main characters have the final task of escaping the silo and seeing what future can be had outside amidst the poisoned world. Finding out this secret is a terrific motivation to finish the series, as well as the surprises encountered in the book. The story flew by and I’m very happy with the ending. It’s truly a remarkable series. I only have two small complaints. First, because a lot of characters from the previous books died, it felt like I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the ones that survived. Second, and a very minor gripe, was the child-in-danger subplot. It wasn’t the most interesting or rewarding to read through. Other than that though, this series is a must-read.

About Timothy C. Ward (29 Articles)
Timothy C. Ward grew up on DragonLance, Stephen King, and Dune. Read how he blends these influences in his serialized epic, Scavenger: Evolution, where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. His books are available in ebook and signed paperback at

2 Comments on BOOK REVIEW: Dust by Hugh Howey

  1. I haven’t read any of Hugh Howey’s books but you’ve convinced me that I’m missing out. Off to download Wool!

  2. Please do. It is a joy to imagine your discovery of his characters and the emotions you’ll go through reading them. If you sign up for Kindle Unlimited, I think most or all of his books are free.

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