Science Fiction

Sand Omnibus Holds Up Under Weight of Howey’s Silo Saga

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Sand Omnibus by Hugh Howey

4 star

4 Stars

After the runaway success of his “Silo Saga” series, Hugh Howey must have been under pressure of sand-dune proportions to come up with a worthy follow-up to his blockbuster. That his new, five-story “Sand” omnibus comes on the heels of the last “Silo Saga” installment was a stroke of marketing genius by Howey. He put the proverbial glassblower in the oven while it’s hot by releasing another series sure to bask in the glow of the “Silo Saga.”

Therein lies the weakness in the new “Sand” series – it feels rushed and reads like a vague retelling of the author’s other works. The “Sand Omnibus” comes off as an above-surface version of the silo world introduced in Wool. Although the “Sand” series has some notable distinctions from the “Silo Saga,” the similarities are too obvious to ignore. Both are set in post-apocalyptic versions of what was once the United States, featuring a changed environment created long ago by self-destructive ancestors. Ageless technology from a bygone era keeps survivors alive in hostile landscapes. Both series feature several protagonists’ points of view that jump from character to character as the storyline progresses. The reality of both worlds shatters when two worlds collide. What was new and refreshing in the “Silo Saga” leaves the reader with a “Sand” aftertaste like grit in one’s teeth.

The omnibus does break some new ground for Howey. His imaginative, “Max Max”-style take on how people adapt to living on the surface and sand diving in a desert world is fuel for the imagination. He delves deeper into human relationships as told through a dysfunctional family almost torn apart by the sands of time. The author’s portrayal of love, loyalty, and camaraderie among family and friends is uneven but a gripping story. His depictions of humans using vibrating dive suits to move through sand like water seems unique in literature, as are other adaptive technologies harnessed by post-apocalyptic humanity.

Although the “Sand Omnibus” is well written, its storyline and pace suggests that the author should have slowed down and spent more time tightening the plot to avoid questionable coincidences and tidy conclusions. Had the series not been published in the aftermath of the ground-breaking “Silo Saga,” it might have elicited a better response. I give the book four stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys dystopian science fiction.

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A Classic that Looms Large in Science Fiction Horror

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Who Goes There? (The Thing) by John W. Campbell

5 star

5 Stars

Originally published by John W. Campbell as a novella in the August 1938 edition of the magazine Astounding Science-Fiction under the pen name Don A. Stuart, “Who Goes There?” spawned the body horror fiction subgenre and three versions of the movie The Thing. The plot is familiar to millions of fans of the 1982 John Carpenter film. Campbell pioneered the concept of an alien creature that invades and assimilates human hosts and then kills them as it jumps from host to host. The story’s theme has been replicated in dozens of movies and books from horror classics like The Blob and The Fly to zombie apocalypses. “Who Goes There?” is arguably the granddaddy of them all.

Campbell’s story is timeless. Its narrative is filled with scientific theories and observations about human behaviors still valid eight decades later. Some of the technology and language he used is dated, but much of the plot is relevant and has been retold in other tales of horror both modern and classic. The ending in this story is different from what The Thing movie fans would expect, but the characters like the pilot, MacReady, are all too familiar.

“Who Goes There?” deserves five stars and is a must-read for anyone who enjoys science fiction, horror, and contemporary classic literature.

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A Post-Apocalyptic Classic for All to Enjoy

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Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1-5) by Hugh Howey

5 star

5 Stars

I purchased Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus 1-5 to see why the series had become so popular and launched Howey’s career from indie author to potential mega-stardom. My curiosity was rewarded with one of the best post-apocalyptic science fiction stories I’ve ever read. The book transcends the genre’s clichés to create a post-nuclear world far removed from contemporary reality but strangely near in its intimate dealing with human nature. Many are calling the Wool series “classic”…and I agree.

Wool Omnibus is a series of five novellas that follow the lives of multiple protagonists who inhabit Silo 18, a large underground bunker in what was once the State of Georgia burrowed in the ground as deep as a skyscraper. Designed centuries ago to protect a small remnant of mankind from a harsh environment on the earth’s surface rendered lethal by nuclear strikes, Silo 18 thrives on rules and order intended to keep its inhabitants as safe and secure as they can be in an underworld. The effect of this stark environment on the personalities and behaviors of the characters that appear in the series makes them all too human. The humanity of Howey’s story is what sets it apart from other action-driven books in the genre. The rich, multi-layered world he created lends itself to an expanding universe, perhaps even a multiverse.

Howey cleverly wraps up the plotlines at the end of each novella tightly enough to leave the reader satisfied that the story has ended, but he leaves unanswered questions that draw readers further into his world. The five-part series brings closure but whets one’s appetite for more Wool installments. Combining the novellas into a single novel addresses the one concern I had about the book – that each novella ends much too soon with too many cliffhangers, like a tantalizing bunch of grapes that we want to devour but can only pluck one by one. The Omnibus satiates this desire by offering the first five novellas in one book.

Wool Omnibus 1-5 earns my enthusiastic praise as one of the best stories I’ve read in the science fiction genre. I give it five stars and highly recommend it to any reader. Even those who do not like post-apocalyptic stories should find something to love.

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1-5) is now available at:

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