Some things are better left to wonder. When Hugh Howey initially began writing his Wool series, I doubt he had all the schematics laid out for the world he was creating. He had a fabulous idea for a story and he ran with it. When huge success followed, the obvious choice was to explore this world more. And so Howey began work on a series of books that would serve as prequels and sequels. Shift is the collection of three prequel books. In my opinion, the last thing Wool needed was a prequel.
The first book in Shift takes place centuries before the events in Wool and it serves to answer the questions that presented themselves in the original work. Fine and dandy, except I didn't want answers. I accepted this underground world for what it was. Did I wonder how they build these massive silos, crammed all these people into them, and wiped their memory of a past that wasn't too long gone? Sure, but it didn't keep me awake at night. I could accept the magic for what it was. But here are the answers and frankly, the answers leave me with more questions. How does a state senator have so much power? Realistically, how were these silos built in such a relatively short time span? ...
The second book fills in the gaps between the first book, and the time period of Wool. It answers a few questions, but largely I found it boring. It doesn't add anything to the story and reads mostly like Stephen King when he's writing at a frantic pace to push out a new book for the publisher. Donald was not interesting at all, Anna was the classic case of the beautiful love-torn villain, and Mission—well, I already forgot his story.
It sounds as though I hated this book. And I did... until I got to the third installment. The third part of Shift brings us to the moments directly before Wool and some of the moments during. Finally, we were back in the world that created the intrigue in the first place. The suspense was once again thrilling. The characters were not only likable, but believable. And the story began to make sense—in the way a science fiction story should make sense.
Shift isn't that wonderful of a book—it drags and it complicates—but it certainly ends well. Overall, it's not a bad book for the sci-fi thriller genre, it just took away too much of the mystery for me, and this mystery was one of the pleasures of this universe. Given the chance, I'd wipe my memory of the first two-thirds of Shift, but that won't happen until “The Thawman” (such a King-like name) is in charge, I guess.