Hugh Howey: Shift

Shift is a science fiction novel by Hugh Howey, published in 2013. It serves as a prequel to his earlier work, Wool, and explores the origins of the post-apocalyptic world introduced in the first book.

The narrative of Shift is divided into three parts, each one focusing on a different protagonist and time period. The first part introduces Donald Keene, a young congressman in the 21st century who is enlisted by a powerful senator named Thurman to design a subterranean shelter, the Silo, meant to safeguard humanity in the event of a nuclear catastrophe. Unbeknownst to Donald, however, Thurman has much more sinister plans for the Silo.


number of pages: 520
literary movement: CONTEMPORARY
literary genre: DYSTOPIAN FICTION
1st edition: 2013
years of writing: 2012-2013


The second part of the novel takes place several hundred years later and follows Troy, a Silo resident who awakens from a long cryogenic sleep. Troy struggles to adjust to life in the Silo, plagued by vague memories of a past life and a world outside the Silo’s confines. As he delves into the Silo’s operations, he uncovers disturbing truths about its creation and the purpose of the ‘shifts’ – periods of cryogenic sleep between stints of service to the Silo.

In the third part, the narrative shifts to yet another time period, focusing on Mission, a young man from Silo 17. Unlike the thriving Silo 1, Silo 17 is broken and desolate, with Mission being one of the few survivors. When a radio message from Juliette, the protagonist from Wool, reaches Silo 17, Mission embarks on a journey to restore his home and reach out to other silos.

Throughout these narratives, Shift explores themes of power, manipulation, and the human will to survive. It shows how Thurman and a select group of individuals orchestrated a mass extinction event to reset the world and establish control through the Silos. By designing the Silo society, they created a system that suppresses knowledge and curiosity, ensuring that the residents remain unaware of their true history and the world outside.


1st book – Wool
2nd book – Shift
3rd book – Dust


Donald Keene

He is the main protagonist of Shift. Initially a young and idealistic congressman, Donald is manipulated into designing the silos. As the book progresses, he evolves into a more hardened, guilt-ridden individual as he grapples with the knowledge of what the silos truly are.

Anna Keene

Donald’s wife, who becomes estranged from him due to his involvement with the silos. She is a journalist and an independent thinker, offering a contrasting perspective to Donald’s.


Thurman is the senator who manipulates Donald into designing the silos. He is the primary antagonist, representing the corruption and abuse of power in the story.


Troy is Donald’s identity in Silo 1 when he awakes from cryostasis. Unaware of his past life as Donald, Troy plays a key role in the administration of the silos.


A fellow inhabitant of Silo 1 and a friend to Troy, Mission helps him uncover the truth about their world.

Jimmy (Solo)

Jimmy is a character who appears in both Wool and Shift. In Shift, readers learn about his life before he became the lone survivor in Silo 17.

Liars and dead men – two parties unskilled at dispensing the truth.



  • Prequel to Wool: Shift is a prequel to Wool and provides backstory to the events and characters of the first book, explaining how and why the silos were created.
  • Multiple Timelines: The narrative is divided into three parts, each with a different timeline – before, during, and after the apocalypse.
  • Main Character: Donald Keene, a young congressman, is the central character in Shift. He is manipulated into building the silos without knowing their true purpose.
  • Character Development: Donald evolves from being naive and unassuming to a man burdened by guilt and despair, providing a compelling character arc.
  • Exploration of Power: The book explores themes of power, control, and manipulation, particularly through the character of Thurman, who is the mastermind behind the silo project.
  • The Uprising: The book details the uprising in Silo 1, which would later influence events in Wool.
  • Revelation of Secrets: The reasons behind the creation of the silos, the truth about the outside world, and the purpose of the cleaning are all revealed in Shift.
  • Cryostasis: Shift introduces the concept of cryostasis, where silo administrators are put to sleep for long periods and woken for short shifts, which explains the longevity of some characters.
  • Literary Genre: The book belongs to the dystopian and post-apocalyptic science fiction genre.
  • Critical Acclaim: Like Wool, Shift also received positive reviews for its engaging narrative, character development, and world-building.

In Shift, Howey deepens the reader’s understanding of the world introduced in Wool. He skillfully intertwines the different timelines and perspectives to reveal the grand plan behind the Silos and the breadth of human manipulation and control. The novel also sets the stage for the final book in the series, Dust, promising a riveting culmination of the Silo saga. Shift is a thought-provoking examination of power, deceit, and humanity’s indomitable spirit, making it a worthy addition to the post-apocalyptic genre.


Hugh Howey is an American author, best known for his popular science fiction series, Wool. A captivating storyteller, Howey has established a prominent position in the world of literature, with his works translated into several languages and enjoyed by readers worldwide.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *