Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

Another Silo Story…

…and not a mention anywhere of Jules.

We’re probably three or so weeks away from SECOND SHIFT – ORDER being available on the Kindle store. It could be a week longer, as there are many rough patches to smooth over, and one of the more complex plots I’ve ever tried to weave together. Once again, no Jules in this one. She’ll be back in the 9th Silo Story.

After the break, you can read the rough draft of chapter one. I did this with FIRST SHIFT, just to give you a feel for the new story. I’m also thinking about doing the beta read a bit differently this time. I’ve considered creating a Google document that a dozen or so readers and editors could access at the same time, leave notes on, see what each other thinks and comments on. I’ve also thought about serializing the editing process by sending out an entire section as I get it done, let the betas read that while I’m revising the next part. It’d be fun to experiment.

Okay, don’t continue further unless you feel like reading a rough draft of chapter 1. Some of you probably already skipped all this nonsense and went straight for it. This is me sticking my tongue out at you people: :P

Keep in mind that this is rough draft material. I included the title, dedication, and section page as images because WordPress is crap at whitespace. The first chapter follows those pages.

•1•

Deathdays were birthdays. That’s what they said, anyway, those who were left behind. They said this to ease their pain. An old man dies and a lottery is won. Children weep while hopeful parents cry tears of joy. Deathdays were birthdays, and no one knew this better than Mission Jones.

It was the day before his seventeenth. Tomorrow, he would grow a year older. It would also mark seventeen years since his mother died. The cycle of life was everywhere—it wrapped around all things like the great spiral staircase—but nowhere else was it more evident, nowhere else could it be seen so clearly that a life given was one taken away. And so Mission approached his birthday with no joy, with a heavy load on his young back, thinking on death and celebrating nothing.

Below him three steps and matching his pace, Mission could hear his friend Cam wheezing from his half of the load. When dispatch assigned them a tandem, they had flipped a coin, heads for heads, and Cam had lost. That left Mission with a clear view of the stairs. It also gave him rights to set the pace—and dark thoughts made for a brutal one.

Traffic was light on the stairwell that morning. The children were not yet up and heading to school, those of them who still went anymore. A few bleary-eyed shopkeepers staggered toward work. There were service workers with grease stains on their bellies and patches sewn into their knees coming off late shifts. One man descended bearing more than a non-porter should, but Mission was in no mood to set down his burden and weigh another’s. It was enough to glare at the gentleman, to let him know that he’d been seen.

“Three more to go,” he huffed to Cam as they passed the twenty-forth. His porter’s strap dug into his shoulders, the load a great one. Heavier still was its destination. Mission hadn’t been back to the farms in near on four months, hadn’t seen his father in just as long. His brother, of course, he saw at the Nest now and then, but it’d still been a few weeks. To arrive so near to his birthday would be awkward, but there was no helping it. He trusted his father to do as he always had and ignore the occasion altogether, to ignore that he was getting any older.

Past the twenty-fourth they entered another gap between levels full of graffiti. The foul sting of home-mixed paint hung in the air. Recent work dribbled in places, parts of it obviously done the night before. In bold letters that wrapped across the curving wall of concrete far beyond the stairway railing read:

This is our ‘Lo.

The slang for silo felt dated, even though the paint was not yet dry. Nobody said that anymore. Not for years. Further up and much older:

Clean this, Mother-

The rest was obscured in a slap of censoring paint. As if anyone could read it and not fill in the blank on their own. It was the first half that was a killing offense, anyway. The second was just a word.

Down with the up-top!

Mission laughed at this one. He pointed it out to Cam. Probably painted by some kid born above the mids and full of self-loathing. Some kid who couldn’t abide their own good fortune. Mission knew the kind. They were his kind. He studied all this graffiti painted over last year’s graffiti and all the many years before. It was here between the levels, where the steel girders stretched out from the stairwell to the cement beyond, that such slogans went back generations. Atop the angry words were pockmarks, scars, and burns of old wars. Atop these wounds lay ever more angry scribbles, on and on.

The End is Coming . . .

Mission marched past this one, unable to argue. The end was coming. He could feel it in his bones. He could hear it in the wheezing rattle of the silo with its loose bolts and its rusty joints, could see it in the way people walked of late with their shoulders up around their ears, their belongings clutched to their chests. The end was coming for certain.

His father would laugh and disagree, of course. His father always disagreed. Mission could hear his old man’s voice from all the levels away, could hear his father telling him how people had thought the same thing before he and his brother were born, that it was the hubris of each generation to think this anew, that their time was special, that all things would come to an end with them. His father said it was hope that made people feel this way, not dread. People talked of the end coming with barely concealed smiles. Their prayer was that they wouldn’t go alone.

Thoughts like these made Mission’s neck itch. He held the hauling strap with one hand and adjusted the ‘chief around his neck with the other. It was a nervous habit, hiding his neck when he thought about the end of things. But that was two birthdays ago.

“You doing okay up there?” Cam asked.

“I’m fine,” Mission called back, realizing he’d slowed. He gripped his strap with both hands and concentrated on his pace, on his job. There was a metronome in his head from his shadowing days, a tick-tock, tick-tock for tandem hauls. Two porters with good timing could fall into a rhythm and wind their way up a dozen flights, never feeling a heavy load. Mission and Cam weren’t there yet. Now and then one of them would have to shuffle their feet or adjust their pace to match the other. Otherwise, their load might sway dangerously.

Their load. Mission’s grandfather came to mind, though he had never known the man. He had died in the uprising of ’78, had left behind a son to take over the farm and a daughter to become a chipper. Mission’s aunt had quit that job a few years back. She no longer banged out spots of rust and primed and painted raw steel like she used to. Nobody did. Nobody bothered. But his father was still farming that same plot of soil, that same plot generations of Jones boys had farmed, forever insisting that things would go on, that they would never change.

“That word means something else, you know,” his father had told him once, when Mission had spoken of revolution. “It also means to go around and around. To revolve. One revolution, and you get right back to where you started.”

This was the sort of thing Mission’s father liked to say when the priests came to bury a man beneath his corn. His dad would pack the dirt with a shovel, say that’s how things go, and plant a seed in the neat depression his thumb made.

Weeks later, Mission had told his friends this other meaning of revolution. He had pretended to come up with it himself. It was just the sort of pseudo-intellectual nonsense they regaled each other with late at night on dark landings while they inhaled potato glue out of plastic bags.

His best friend Rodny hadn’t been impressed. “Nothing changes until we make it change,” he had said with a serious look in his eye.

Mission wondered what his best friend was doing now. He hadn’t seen Rodny in months. Whatever he was shadowing for on thirty-four kept him from getting out much.

Thinking of Rodny brought back memories of happier days. Growing up in the Nest with friends tight as a fist. Mission remembered thinking they would all stay together and grow old in the up-top. They would live along the same hallways, watch their eventual kids play together the way they had. But all had gone their separate ways. It was hard to remember who had done it first, who had shaken off the shadowing expected by their parents, but eventually most had. Like a group decision never discussed. They had broken dozens of repeated cycles by leaving home and choosing a new fate. Sons of plumbers took up farming. Daughters of the cafe learned to sew. None of them bothered to ask how many of their parents had done the same. Everything felt new and unique, and so it had to be.

Mission remembered leaving home angry. A fight with his father, throwing down his shovel, promising he’d never dig a trench again. He’d learned in the Nest that he could be anything. And so when he grew miserable, he assumed it was the farms that made him feel that way, and he decided to become a porter.

These thoughts led to a brutal pace. Mission thought on old friends he no longer saw and family he had never known, and a ring of fire burned steady around his neck, the remnants of a rope’s embrace. There was a welcomed soreness in his legs, a raging fire in his calves, pain that reminded him he was alive. A few steps behind him, Cam gasped for air and joked how vandals couldn’t spell.

Birthdays were deathdays, Mission told himself, two sides of the same coin. He and Cam had flipped a dime back in dispatch, heads for heads, and now Mission could feel a man’s shoulders pressed against his own. And when he lifted his gaze to survey the steps ahead, the back of his skull met the crown of the dead man’s through the plastic bag, birthdays and deathdays pressed tight, both halves of a single coin.

Mission carried them both, this load meant for two people. He took the stairs a pair at a time, a brutal pace, up toward the farm of his youth.

53 replies to “Another Silo Story…”

Wonderful! Thank you. I’d wondered why you hadn’t posted the video of the reading. This is better, I think. More food for thought in the print version.

This doesn’t sound like a rough draft anymore. I think you’ve got it. Very, very nice!

Wow. Very powerful.. I look forward to enjoying this story as much as I have enjoyed the previous.. I had a whole block of text here comparing you to Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven and Anne McCaffrey, but it got eaten when the password I cut and pasted wasnt accepted.. foo..
the question on the end of the bock, after trying to butter up with said comparisions was: “How does one become a member of the Beta Reader group?”

Thanks, and Get back to work!

It’s revealed in the text, but I’ll tell you. About 70 years since the end of his FIRST SHIFT. About 120 since the Democratic Convention. And 150 or so BEFORE the events in the first WOOL story.

How can it be 70 years since the end of First Shift and yet 150 before the first event of Wool?

First Shift ended with “problem with silo 18” Is it talking about different uprising than the one that’s taking place in the Wool books?

First of all can I just say I love your writing, and I can’t wait for Second Shift!!! But I think I may be losing my mind. I get that this Omnibus and First Shift are 1-6 and this is 7, and I see you’re working on 9, buuuuuuuut where is 8? Do Woolites not believe in the number 8?!

Josh, my guess is the 8th installment will be “Third Shift – The Pact” and it will wrap up the prequel trilogy. Then Part 9 will get back to Jules & Co. But that’s just a guess. Hugh might have something else up his sleeve.

Oh dear, now you’ve done it. I’ll be worrying on these guys for weeks till the rest of the book comes out. A good start to what promises to be a dark tale. But knowing Number 9 is in the works will keep me sane. (Have you been listening to The White Album?)

Man Hugh you really know how to suck people into your world. I cannot wait, go ahead and make us sweat, that just makes it better. Good luck and keep up the good work.

I am so excited for this. This tease is fantastic. Also didn’t seem very rough to me either. I am also not a writer.

Not gonna read it, mostly cause I know I’ll just get to the end of it and be too impatient for the rest. ;)

“Mission carried them both, this load meant for two people. He took the stairs a pair at a time, a brutal pace, up toward the farm of his youth.”

Very nice.

i love the fact that you are inroducing more characters, looking at things from a different angle, giving more depth to our understanding of silo world. not just another storyline.
this is why we like your work

I’m already hooked. Amazing how quickly and naturally you can draw us into a character. Can’t wait.

Howey. Killer first chapter. Absolutely love the end. Very evocative, moody, giving much to look forward to, deep. I am not even being my humorous, sarcastic self! We need the rest, now get back to work! Sorry, couldn’t resist…

Fantastic! Can’t wait to read more!

I found one typo along the way and thought I’d share it with you since I know how much they bug me in my own writing.

Line: “Three more to go,” he huffed to Cam as they passed the twenty-forth.
Typo: twenty-forth

Again I write something awesome in reply and it gets dumped claiming that the password didn’t match.

Anyways- Thank you Hugh. This was smooth as satin.
For the brief time it took to read this, I was in the silo, helping carry a heavy body down the stairs. -they were going down right? If anyone was unclear it was that. At the end he say’s they’re going up. I guess they were going up–ahh they man who passed was descending. I guess I figured Cam had the head and that I was thinking bodies get carried head first.

I love how you wove the hints of revolution into Missions character development and the set dressing.

Hugh, my wife hates Sci-Fi but I wanted her to read Wool so badly I traded…if she read Wool I would read 50 Shades. Now she can’t wait for the next Wool installment. Can we pre-order Second Shift – Order from Amazon? If so any idea when?

Haha, sniffing potato glue. Kids these days, I tell ya! Great job, Hugh. Love love love. It’s awesome how you have come up with all the back story. It’s like all of Tolkein’s Middle Earth tales and appendices in the Ring and Silmarillion books. There’s sooo much information that you know about Silo Living! Thank you for being so…complete in your story telling:)

I’m super impressed at your pace, and beyond excited for the book. I suck at catching typos so I’ll wait for the release.
Are you planning on more audio?
How did wool do in that, anyway?

I discovered the Wool series when it was already in the Omnibus form, so I was able to devour it all at once. I immediately bought First Shift – at first I missed Jules and knowing what happens next, but was grateful to have more of the missing story about how everything came to be.
I love that you are interacting with your readers and allowing us in on your thinking and initial drafts. That’s a whole new way to think about writing for me . . . but it makes me feel closer to the story to follow your story as it evolves – thanks so much for sharing, and I’d love to be in your beta-reader group!
– – as a 50+ female . . . . I’m curious if you have any data on the range of readers who are hooked on this series?

Hi Hugh!
I’d LOVE to Beta read, if you’re still in need of people? I love this first chapter, and thought I should mention that you refer to Mission setting a ‘brutal pace’ twice – once after the descender passes, and again just before the end. But already I can feel the derelict atmosphere in there, and the deep sorrow in Mission…
Lovely stuff!

Hi Hugh! Love the silo stories, and can’t wait to read this one. I had read many dyctopian books lately – it all started with “hunger games” (it was in kindle store best sellers) – but your silo living idea is truly original. It’s amazing how you can kill your main character, and in the next book make your readers to love the new main character.
I’d love to be beta reader – just to read your books sooner – but my english is not so good.
Greetings form Argentina!!!

Holy Moly, I just randomly came across Wool last week when I was browsing on Amazon and bought the Omnibus edition. I feel a little bad for my family since all I’ve done is read it at a ridiculous pace since. Naturally I bought First Shift – Legacy the moment I was done with the omnibus edition. I just finished reading it a couple of hours ago. I then spent the next hour trying to tell my husband (who isn’t a reader) the story in the order that you did, and I realized it was so complex I couldn’t hardly do it because I kept jumping back and forth in time so much and trying to explain future and past events at weird times. It made me realize what an amazing storyteller you are because it flowed perfectly in the order you told it, but giving a synopsis was crazy difficult. I got on your website to see if you mentioned when the next book might come out, so I’m thrilled to hear that it will be very soon. I’m just not sure how I’m going to wait for #8 after I finish reading that one. I guess I’ll have to delve into your other books! Mainly I just wanted to say your books are awesome. To put my appreciation for your skills in perspective, I’m an avid reader, but have never loved a book so much that I felt compelled to leave a personal message for the author saying so. You rock. :)

I am obsessed!! Can’t wait for the 2nd Shift…and the rest of the stories to unfold. You have an amazing brain, thank you so much for sharing…

Ok, enough posting to blogs and stuff! Write more of the series!!! I know I know. I’m being selfish. but by golly I love a good read, and by definition a good writer. And Hugh I gotta tell ya, you’re GREAT at both :) A long time friend of mine told me about the WOOL series, I kindled those and devoured them as fast as I could read them. the problem is I read really FAST. so you need to um… write FASTER :) Thanks and I look forward to the new book.

I just finished First Shift. I love this series!

Any idea when the next book would be available on the Kobo? :)

I just read 1-6 in about a week and LOVED it. Thank you.
I see you mentioned the Kindle store release of Second Shift… how about us nook folks – same schedule? (Pretty please)

Hugh,
As the rest of commenters (obviously your readers) I’m really looking forward for this new WOOL volume to be available.
There’re two things that I especially like about the way you write: a very clear and fast paced style, and how you manage to make credible and real even short lived characters.
However, I have a problem when I recommend your work to other people off-line: It’s just available in English (AFAIK).
Most people here, in Spain, can’t speak English, let alone read a novel.
I know, you’re not there yet :) but when you are I’ll do my best to make my wife read WOOL.

Hi Hugh,

Very good series. What I most appreciate is the world you built. You are a great writer, with an original view of a post-apocalyptical world. Reading the series kept me on my toes and longing for more.

Looking forward to Second Shift!

Looking forward to reading this one! Could barely put the first six down. If you’re still making edits, you use describe Misson’s pace as “brutal” three different times. Maybe you’re going for emphasis, but it sounds repetitious. :)

Would it be out of place for me to ask if Third Shift will take place during the events of Wool? Cause I have had this feeling that the fellow Lukas talks to in Silo 1 is Troy/Donald since I read First Shift.

Ok, before I get my hopes up too high, can I presume this is a new shift not read in Shift Omnibus. As I read your “rough” draft( I should be so talented) didn’t know the names or the setting. If so this is a good thing for me as I have been struggling for anything that wouldn’t be a letdown after finishing Dust, which, I read slower, as I knew it would be over.

Yeah Hugh!!

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