Hugh Howey is not just an author – he is one of my favourite authors ever. And this is not bad going considering I first became aware of his work about 18 months ago when Wool was released in the UK. Wool, and its two sequels Shift and Dust, were originally self published as e-books in the States, but when they were taken on by a mainstream publisher Howey did the unthinkable and retained the rights to the e-books (in the USA). He is now a champion of self-publishing and actively encourages fan fiction set in the worlds he has created. Of course, if the books themselves were not good, all that would be purely academic – luckily the enclosed world of the Wool trilogy, the characters and the brilliant plotting mean that I will reading any of his books I can lay my hands on.
I was, as you can imagine, very pleased to see on his blog that Hugh Howey’s latest book was due for release this summer but approached it with some trepidation. As I said earlier I was a big fan of the world in which Wool was set – would this new world be as interesting; as detailed; as good? Wool is set in a series of silos in a landscape totally hostile to all life – it was like the mother of all locked room mysteries – the new book, Sand, is set in a vast desert which seemed to have the potential to lack, well, the detail and variety of the silos. I really shouldn’t have worried. The desert is another brilliantly imagined dystopia – with far more varied scenes than I had imagined. We see it as a home, a job of work and an ever-present danger – we travel across it on something like windsurfers and we dive beneath it as if it were an ocean. And the characters, once again, are hugely realistic, full of human flaws and you become totally involved in their lives.
I’m not going to give too many details of the plot. Howey’s books have such wonderfully detailed plots and a large part of the joy is in watching those plots expand out from the initial premise, seeping (almost like sand) into new and previously unconsidered places. I am pleased to report that the ending seems to lead into the distinct possibility of a sequel – although, obviously, this means more waiting…..
In conclusion I spend a lot of my time at work recommending the Wool trilogy to customers and I will be steering them towards Sand. I will also be very keen to make sure that they at least look at the physical hardback edition – it is a thing of beauty and proof of why Hugh Howey loves the work his UK publisher does…