“Dust” Hugh Howey

Dust is the last book in Hugh Howey’s post-apocalypse trilogy. I read the first two last year (Wool and Shift) and had to wait till this year for the final book because the reservations list at the library was that long. Wool introduced us to a post-apocalyptic society living in an underground bunker after some unspecified disaster had made the Earth uninhabitable – and as the book went on it was clear that there was something rotten at the core of that society. Shift then took us back to the beginning to a near future world, and showed us how we get from there to the world of Wool. By the end of Shift we get to see the events of the end of Wool from a different perspective. So having got both narratives up to the same place we now move forward in Dust.

It’s really difficult to talk about this particular book without giving away the various reveals and I think that would spoil a lot of the pleasure of it. So much so, in fact, that I’m not sure how much re-read potential these have. In Dust Howey continues to reveal exactly what is rotten at the centre of this world, and manages to bring the story to a satisfying ending, with just enough hope for the future combined with doubt about the long term success (and loose ends).

The trilogy as a whole feels very well constructed. As I just said a lot of the pleasure in reading it comes from the unfolding story of what is really going on. There’s a constant stream of revelations, but each feels obvious in retrospect (this is a good thing) – you get there and it’s a sense of “oh of course that’s what those bits meant earlier”. I also liked the characters. The protagonists were interestingly flawed, and the mistakes and missteps they made felt like inevitable consequences of the sort of person they were & the situations they were in. The antagonist is actually mostly the world/society itself but we do get to see something of the man who conceived of it and set it up – and I did get the sense that if he was telling the story then he’d be the hero of it, if you see what I mean. He’d feel he’d made difficult choices and sacrifices for the greater good – it’s just that from our perspective both his intentions and his methods are very much not good.

Overall I’d say it’s a good trilogy, and I’d recommend it. But I don’t think I’ll be re-reading them because most of the draw for me was finding out what was going on.