Shift Omnibus - Hugh Howey

You know, everyone sings songs about Old MacDonald and his farm...and the farmer with a dog whose name was Bingo...but no one really sings a lot of songs about how Old MacDonald got his farm, or the farmer got Bingo.

 

Shift is the story of what happened before "E-I-E-I-O" and "B-I-N-G-O" and all of that jazz. Shift is the story of how Old MacDonald got his farm (silo included; construction required) and the farmer got Bingo.

 

Unfortunately for us, neither of those things came from Rural King or Oshkosh or Farm&Fleet.

 

Donald Keene gave up being an architect and ended up being a congressman. [spoiler] And it turns out the only reason his senator pushed to get him into office was so he could go back to being an architect [/spoiler]. Big whoop, not to mention a classic example of "this wasn't in the job description!"

 

Usually, though, when you tell your employer that lovely little phrase, you're not talking about [spoiler] constructing massive underground silos where you'll store only a select portion of the US population in the event of mass destruction [/spoiler]. In my experience that conversation tends to go more along the lines of not fishing the trash out of the women's bathroom hygiene bins without gloves.

 

Well, Donald Keene didn't have to worry about gloves. [spoiler] He did have to worry about mass destruction [/spoiler], but once again he didn't get what he expected: [spoiler] because when your employer asks you to build an underground network of silos so that you have protection from something terrible happening to the world, Donald Keene made the mistake of assuming that his employer wasn't the person intending to cause the problem and justify the silos [/spoiler]. Bad plan, dude. Bad plan.

 

So, yeah...that's how Old MacDonald got his farm, and how the farmer got his dog. E-I-E-I-Ohhhhh, that sucks.

 

 

Is that enough suckiness to fill an entire novel? Yes. Is it the end of this book? No.

 

Turns out that farms don't run themselves.

 

[spoiler] So after already being ready to quit this job he didn't really sign up for, Donald gets to be on call for whenever every other silo and its people decide to act up [/spoiler]. Shift tells the story of a few of this situations, [spoiler] and boy, when things go wrong...they go wrong: violence galore, mind wipes, living alone in a computer room for years before living alone in a silo all by yourself for even longer...[/spoiler]; it's like when you work at Office Depot and your attempt to put a box of paper back send sticky notes all over the floor...you just want to act like it's not your problem.

 

Except it is. [spoiler] It is Donald's problem. Every last part of it [/spoiler].

 

Hugh Howey writes a fantastic new brand of dystopian fiction. Growing up on YA literature and classics, I'm pretty familiar with what different types of dystopia look like. This is like reading the modern 1984: Howey's not afraid to tell you what universe this is, and he's really not scared to tell you how the universe got the way it is. The result is that instead of a lovey-dovey romance story that just happens to take place in a dystopian society (coughTheHungerGamescough), you get a dystopian society that just happens to have people who fall in love. In my humble opinion, a much better read.

 

Why 4 stars, then? Well, it was a little slow. Shift does much more hopping around than Wool did, and covers a lot more ground (physically, in time, however), so it's not quite the zip-through read that Wool was. But it's still an amazing new foray into dystopian fiction. Check it out.

 

By the way: Old MacDonald and the farmer might not be the nice guys you think they are. No one said the farm, the animals, and Bingo were happy.