Hugh Howey’s one word titles (Wool, Silo, Shift, Dust, Sand) were originally eye-catching. Now, however, I seem to have trouble telling them apart, though I’ve only read two. Also, perhaps because the stories were originally released in installments, I have difficulty remembering how they fit together. Wool, for example, is the first installment in the Silo series, but later packaged with further installments into a single volume, also titled Wool, and followed by the book Shift, which also comprised several installments, and Dust, which was a more monolithic volume in the series.
Because of all this, I (mis-)understood that Across the Sand was the start of a follow-on series to Sand, which I have not read. Now that I’ve finished Across the Sand, though, and done some more checking, it looks like Sand was a compendium of installments, to which Across the Sand is a monolothic sequel. Rather than picking up the start of a second series, then, I picked up a current series right in the middle, which I’m loth to do.
The sequencing showed. While Howey takes some steps to let this book work as a standalone, he doesn’t really succeed. It’s always clear that there’s substantial backstory, and that the book would work better for readers who knew it. Even – and perhaps especially – at the end, I was substantially confused by two or more sets of inter-related children, all of whom seemed to have partially absent fathers with secrets. I had only the faintest grasp of who was whom and how they all fit together. To make matters worse, the book starts and ends with references to a specific result of the prior book (or installments).
Despite all that, the book is well written, with Howey’s usual firm hand and interesting, engaging characters facing difficult decisions. I wavered between 3.5 and 4 stars, but settled on the high side because the book generally moves well. It’s got interesting concepts in it as well, but they’re never really explained; presumably the first book does so in detail.
All in all, a good read, but only recommended for those who have read the first book.