We had a Q&A session at a Boston event last weekend, and a reader wanted to know if they could ask questions about DUST. Most of the audience had only read WOOL, so I suggested we do something online at a later date. And then yesterday, I received an email from a reader with a load of questions, and after firing off my responses, I thought they would make a good launching point to really dive into the trilogy.

I have blogged about this before, but I should say again that I write primarily for myself and for the repeat offenders. I have in mind the readers who might go back and revisit a text and catch all the foreshadowing and layers of meaning. Assembling a novel is like building a crossword for me. There’s a great review and response on Amazon for A WALK UP NAMELESS RIDGE that captures some of this. What follows is a discussion about the thought processes I had while writing this series. Feel free to chime in with your own questions.

Dear Mr. Howey,
I have just finished reading the trilogy and thoroughly enjoyed the entire series. However, some threads were left unexplained and I would be most grateful if you would be kind enough to answer the following questions so I can sleep at night!

1. No explanation was given as to what happened when they first went into the silos. I’m curious as to why the women meekly agreed to be put to sleep, or did they offer some kind of resistance?

Almost everyone was put to sleep, not just the women. Only a single shift remained. There were pockets of hysteria, but most of these people were prepped for this from the beginning. Donald was an exception, as he joined just the day before.

 2. How come Thurman and Donald were able to go outside without protection and survive? Did Thurman have such a build up of good nanos that he could survive anything? I thought Donald also had some nanos in his system – were they not enough to fully protect him? This whole area of the story is rather confusing.

 

Exactly. The good nanos. Everyone in the original silos had them (it was why they didn’t die on the day that everyone on planet Earth did). They got more during each sleep. Both men were ravaged by the outside air, but both were given treatment and put back in the pods. Donald got out early and didn’t get more treatments, which was why he went downhill.

3. No explanation was given regarding The healing of Julliette’s scars. Did she receive some good nanos when she entered silo 17 the first time? If so, why did she not also receive bad nanos and be coughing like Donald? Why was Juliette not more curious about all this?

 

She was very curious, but worse things were happening. Silo 17 received a massive dose of good nanos from Silo 1 (with Silo 40 assisting). It was why anyone (like Solo) survived there. Passing through Silo 17 gave everyone from 18 a dose of the stuff. It’s questionable whether they would have survived the journey overland otherwise.

4. When Donald destroyed silo 1, wouldn’t this have caused the catastrophic failure of all the other silos? He was effectively killing mankind, not saving it. Was this his intention? Am I right in this assumption?

Silo 1 collapsed, but the sequence to collapse other silos would have to have been engaged. Donald knew how this worked, having done it once himself. He was destroying the place that could destroy the other places, leaving them to live their lives without threat or intrusion.

5. I don’t get why the devastation only occurs around the silo areas. If the world was destroyed, how come they are able to walk to a perfectly safe area just a short distance away. How come the bad nanos did not pervade everywhere. I don’t get this part of the story at all. I was hoping this would be explained by the end of the book but I feel as though either I’ve missed some important hint in the story to resolve this or I’ve been left hanging which is weird and a bit frustrating.

The nanos were able to target based on species (the original threat was based on race, made by elements in the Middle East and Israel). All of mankind was infected over the years. Invisible bombs lie in every person’s bloodstream. Only those inoculated (by visiting the nano treatment chambers) survived the day the nanos went off. Planes would have plummeted from the sky, cars would have swerved and crashed, but the people at the national convention and every other living thing were perfectly okay. This is all technically feasible and probably 100-200 years from being possible, btw.

 

The length of time spent underground was to ensure that no pocket of humanity anywhere else survived, and also to kill off the memories of those who might whisper across generations. The nanos were programmed to create a dome of death around the silos to prevent any silo from escaping early. Everywhere else, nature was thriving.

6. The storyline surrounding religion is a little weak and not developed enough if you don’t mind me saying. it appears to go off on some kind of strange tangent in the third book that doesn’t really add anything to the story or fit with how the silos are organized. Where does that story go in the end?

It was meant to highlight the dichotomy in the Bible of salvation or damnation. Juliette could have used the blast charges to go out and get revenge and kill. She used them instead to open up the 51st silo, which was their salvation. We make choices like this every day. Do we use our energy to build things up or tear them down? How is religion used? How should it be used?

 

Some of the church members left with Juliette. Some stayed. Is it better to live a harsh life in the hopes of some eternal reward? Or is it better to work hard to make this world a better place?

I hope you don’t mind my asking all this. I really did love the books and now have my son and daughter hooked on them. I can’t wait to see how the film turns out and best of luck with it all.

Kind regards,
Phyl

38 Responses to “MASSIVE SPOILERS!”

  1. Sarah says:

    Thanks for all the WOOL series details, it’s great to know more like this! Also, that car has a MASSIVE spoiler indeed!!! :D

    Do you know when you’ll be publishing the next Molly Fyde book?

  2. Marshall says:

    Just finished Dust last night. Bravo, well done Hugh! Silo has been a great series from start to finish and I hope you manage to find a few more stories for this new version of humanity. Looking forward to the movie some day, hopefully that project comes your way….

    Fair winds,
    Marshall

  3. Regina says:

    Just discovered the Wool/Shift/Dust series, and have read all of them in a couple of days. One burning question – what happens to the other silos?

  4. Regina says:

    To be more specific, why doesn’t Jewel (love Elise!) go back and rescue the others?

    • She was terrified of even drilling over to join another silo. Juliette isn’t quite the hero in shining armor. She’s a pragmatist. She knows, and warns her friends at one point, that joining another group would likely end in violence. To her, an act of magnanimity was to leave supplies at the SEED for any who followed.

      • Regina says:

        I can see your point, but I wish she had at least tried to send a message, especially to ones like Silo 40… She’s walking away from thousands of people who will go through a couple hundred years of more cleanings and then run out of supplies. The only difference is that there won’t be any Silo 1; the end result will be the same. Can Juliette really walk away from that with a clear conscience? Maybe the story of how they get settled and then go back for the others is the next book. :-)

        • Mike says:

          Not entirely true. Without Silo 1, I believe the line of events at the other silos would accelerate. The IT heads spoke on occasion to Silo 1, and every new IT head had to go through that initiation period. With all that suddenly gone, and no Silo 1 to run things the way they intended them to, the other silos would either crash, or find their way out much sooner than originally intended.

          It wouldn’t be immediate, but the ideas would come up slowly (though much faster than if Silo 1 were around).

  5. RrustyDawg says:

    The biggest “magic hand wave” I saw was that the views from within the silo zone looking out was complete destruction and a harsh, dusty windswept desolation. Even the sky is gray and devoid of normal colors. We know that beyond this nano cloud, nature continued basically as before…blue sky, green trees, flying birds, rain, snow, tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, hail, etc.

    So this advanced nano cloud surrounding the silos:
    1- attacks and rapidly kills any unprotected human
    2- attacks and dissolves certain man made (probably organic based by IT design) cleaning suits
    3- kills and eats any living organism that it touches (plants and animals)
    4- distorts or filters light so that green and blue natural colors are blocked even from unsuited human eyes
    5- eats carcasses of dead birds (fell from the sky upon wandering into the nano cloud) so fast that nobody watching a viewscreen has ever seen one (ok…maybe the screens have an autofilter feature to give nanos a reasonable eating time)

    Hmmmm…nope. I’m not buying it. Its fine, but the altered weather and light perception cannot be attributed to nanos.

  6. Oliver says:

    Hugh, Just want to say how much I enjoyed your books. At the end I had a lot of questions, and saw a lot of story lines which I hope you will follow one day!

    1. What happens in the other silos without direction from Silo 1?
    2. Of the silos that don’t collapse, what to they do when they run out of the supplies in 200 years?
    3. At the end of the 500 year period what happens? Do all the doors just open? Do the other silos fight as Thurman predicted?
    4. The story of the silo 18 survivors
    5. What about all the knowledge from the past? Has all of our scientific knowledge been turned to dust with the destruction of the servers?

    A really great book is one that leaves you with more questions once you have read it. I hope you consider writing more books related to the Wool series.

    Thanks again,

    Oliver

  7. Tim says:

    Glad this was written. I’d gotten completely the wrong end of the stick about the outside air (around the silos) and so was confused by the way the ending played out. I’d concluded that the outside air was actually perfectly safe to walk around in, perhaps even beneficial (thus Thurman doing so without a suit), unless the person was wearing a suit; the nanos would then instead attack that and the person within, hence the death of the cleaners and Donald’s continued decline. I thought the doors opening when a Silo shut down was all just for show (it was the gas being pumped in doing all the bad work), and the good preservation of the bodies near the entrance was actually as a result of the outside air. I kept waiting for the characters to come to what I’d thought was the obvious conclusion, so was shocked when they didn’t! Cleared that up for me now!

  8. Harlow Fallon says:

    I’m so glad you’ve allowed an opportunity here to ask questions. I have several. I have a bad feeling that this will reveal my rapidly diminishing supply of healthy brain cells, but here goes anyway:

    1. I simply could not picture the arrangement of the silos. It was mentioned that a map showed red lines radiating out from these silos and merging to point to the “seed” bank? Were they arranged in a circle? or were they lined up like the stars on the US flag?

    2. I also had a difficult time forming a clear image in my mind of the huge “digger” or driller used to reach the next silo. Did you base this on some sort of real machine? I even tried to google mining or drilling machines to give me a better idea and had no luck.

    3. When Darcy said he remembers who he is, who was he exactly? What exactly was the impact of that realization? Was it so bad that he felt in some way he was atoning for past sins by giving up his life to save Charlotte? I really liked Darcy… :(

    4. Lukas was such an endearing character. I was very sad when he died. (I might have even cried a little but don’t tell anyone.) I felt like he contributed so much to the story, and even to Juliette’s own personality. Had you planned all along to kill off Lukas and tear my heart out, or was there some point later where that decision came?

    Thanks again for a great series of books.

    • 1. Similar to the stars, but staggered slightly.
      2. Yup. They have diggers like this for creating tunnels. Check out the machines used to dig from the UK to France.
      3. He was an Secret Service agent. But what he was really remembering was that he was a good guy, someone willing to lay down his life for another.
      4. I knew he was going to die when I introduced him. I thought it was going to be over the railing and down to the bottom of the silo, but it didn’t work out that way.

      My pleasure!

    • Mike says:

      It was pretty hard seeing Lukas die. He was a good guy. He was stuck between several beliefs. He didn’t necessarily believe everything Juliette was saying, but he believed in her as a person. He wanted to help out as many people as he could, but didn’t necessarily know how… nor felt he had the tools to do so. There were times his actions really frustrated the hell out of me. But in the end, I really love what he stood for.

  9. Hugh: Thanks so much for doing this!! It’s like finally being able to exhale to ask you exactly what was meant by some of the questions left at the end of the series…

    Phyl, above, asked fabulous questions, and I learned a lot from your answers. The answer to #3 surprised me completely. I hadn’t thought of good nanos being sent from Silo 1. Anna looks like a better and better person the more we learn about her.

    Imagine the future scholars who will write dissertations about the Silo Saga and will examine in great detail the underpinnings of your worldview!

    In answer to Harlow above, I think Hugh had a photo of a young fan’s diagram of the placement of all the silos at one point… several months ago. I couldn’t locate it, but I remember he said that it was accurate.

  10. Vicky says:

    Heya,

    Finally finished Dust – really enjoyed it. I am happy what happened with the good/bad nanos and also happy with how/why the sky could look different with the nanos (which would essentially look like dust (Aha!) to the human eye) surrounding the silos.

    I do have an issue with Juliette leaving the other silos behind. Assuming Charlotte tells her what has happened to Silo 1, it feels like they’ve saved 100 people (aren’t there going to be issues with cross-breeding at that population level?) as opposed to many thousands who would have survived from the ‘top’ silo who, I assume would have required the direction of Silo 1 to have found the digger and dug out. Without Silo 1 to help, surely they will all just run out of supplies and ultimately die?

    Unless Silo 40 is going to help… what *has* happened to Silo 40? I assume that they would have left a note in the Seed silo if they’d also made it out? Does that mean they’re still there? Surely they would be safe to contact?

    Really enjoyed the books but feel another one (or maybe some good quality fanfic) needs to be written!

    Cheers
    Vicky

    • Vicky says:

      Ah – I suppose that the cross-breeding issue might be fixed by the good nanos…

    • You can avoid cross-breeding with two dozen people. I was surprised when I looked this up. But think of how small some tribal societies are.

      Silo 40 is gone, but some of the survivors from Silo 40 are in other silos. Donald ordered the bombing of Silo 40 on his second shift.

  11. I thought for sure you were going to hit us with one more twist.

    Like either the plan failed and the rest of the world moved on and was completely transformed in the 750 years. Leaving the genocidal people in their self imposed exile, interfering every now and again with silo one so even the passage of time was muddied to them… punishing them forever.

    Or an AI evolved from the nanos is doing the same thing… keeping the ‘chimps’ in their nature preserve.

    But I’m guessing you wanted to end on some hope…

    • Mike says:

      Yeah, at one point I thought for sure that the world had survived to some extent (probably not 100%), but that life was moving on from the event without anyone in the silos realizing it. That Juliette would finally leave, only to find civilization carrying on with their daily tasks almost like nothing had ever happened.

  12. Also 100-200 years is probably a bit long of an estimate for the nanos… This stuff is going to be here sooner than that..

    • Yeah, I’m overly conservative when it comes to progress. I think I’m trying to make up for the fact that most sf authors are overly optimistic. Where’s my jetpack and flying car?!

  13. Cyberis says:

    Having finished Dust I know what the S.E.E.D. is but what does the acronym stand for? Also, I was a bit confused about the dome thing. I think you sort of cleared it up (ha! how punny!) but I hadn’t realized that those who were in the silos had been given good nanos or they would have perished too. That raises the question as to why cleaners would die — weren’t they already inoculated? Also, were there still bad nanos outside the dome? Did they die off or were they programmed to become the dome once they’d done damage elsewhere in the world?

    Finally I have to agree with some of the other comments. Silo 1 was bad, but it also served a vital purpose — It was an outside authority, albeit an ominous one. I’m not sure mankind does well when left completely on its own. Not to mention the fact that it supplied at least some power to the silos (like Silo 17) so what happens to the inhabitants of that silo or others like it when silo 1 no longer provides power, or “Argon” gas when cleaners go out to clean?

    If you want to revisit the silo world with another book, picturing how the other silos get along and how any of them get out alive would be an interesting read if it can be credulously written.

  14. Peter Winther says:

    Loved your work from the first chapter of Wool.
    Thank you for showing the world the silos :-D

    How widespread was the initial attack?
    Has to be whole planet right?

    How long was the outside world “infected” with Nanos?
    I’m guessing many years to ensure survivors in bunkers don’t make it

  15. George S says:

    I see some other stories set in your WOOL universe, and am interested in them but I want to know if you approve of them or not?

  16. Kurt Loy says:

    I’ve noticed you seem to have a group of self published friends that you run with at cons and other events. I’ve wandered into the writing of Michael Bunker but I was wondering if there was anyone else you would recommend from that group?

    • :D We sound like a pack of people with leather jackets on! Very cool visual.

      I’ve met a ton of authors these past two years. Annie Bellet is one I would look into. Elayne Griffith. Patrice Fitzgerald. Jason Gurley. Colin Taber. David Adams. Matthew Mather. And I’m sure I’m pissing off a dozen people by not mentioning them here, and for that I apologize. Just some off the top of my head.

  17. Darren says:

    I, too, recently finished the series. Congratulations on a fantastic work. Most impressive to me was the subtlety of the narration; you treated the reader as an intelligent listener to the story, and I appreciate that. Keep up the good work and thanks for a great read.

  18. Hugh
    LOVED the books, have been recommending them since about chapter 3 of Wool.

    Not sure if you are still answering questions, but despite several rereads I couldn’t understand why Silo 1 didn’t have stairs, nor the “awareness” that everyone in Silo 1 had for the overall program (though I’d assume it was quite a lot, other than the Pact bit)…
    Best
    Jeremy

    • Jeffrey says:

      Answer to: WHY DIDN’T SILO 1 HAVE STAIRS? (asked by Jeremy Toeman).

      This question was answered in DUST on page 363. Silo 1 was “rigged to blow.” Apparently the unusual thickness of concrete between silo levels (which would have caused the silo to pancake after explosives were set off) would have eventually been figured out by the Silo 1 residents, since there was no normal explanation for the extra thickness of the concrete.

      As for part 2 of your question, the Silo 1 residents didn’t have the “awareness” that those in Silo 18 had because they were only awake for 6 months at a time so they didn’t have time to figure these things out. Nor did have parents and elders to pass on any suspicions about the real purpose of the silos. And since each shift had a new mix of people, they never got to talk or share notes with people they knew from a previous shift. Basically, they were focused on finishing their shift and getting out in 500 years. They all seemed to know how many shifts they had left until the final release to the outside.

  19. Jane Johnson says:

    Hi Hugh

    I have just finished Dust. I enjoyed the trilogy and Shift was my favorite. I wanted to ask a few questions:
    1. Why was it only men in silo 1?
    2. When the bombs went off and everyone first went underground to the silos, did the whole of the planet get wiped out that day? Were there no other countries or communities in the whole world that survived?
    3. Where was the President in all of this?

    Thank you

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