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,

60 responses to “MASSIVE SPOILERS!”

  1. 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?

    1. I had hoped by the end of October, but I have two small projects I’m working on right now, both top secret. :)

  2. 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,

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

    1. 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.

      1. 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. :-)

        1. 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. 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.

    1. James D Kappel Avatar

      Don’t forget that they nuked the site as everyone was being funneled into the silos. I believe they referenced “mushroom” like clouds multiple times. That would have left the land desolate for quite a long time and then the nano cloud could continuously take effect.

  6. 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,


    1. yes PLEASE write more on this series! I’m certain I’ll devour them like I did the others.

  7. 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!

    1. I’m with you on this Tim! You wrote it out better than I would have though.

  8. 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. 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!

      1. Thanks very much, Hugh! :)

    2. 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.

    1. Oooooh, thanks, Patrice! If you or anyone else happens to find that, please point me in the right direction. :)

  10. 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!


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

    2. 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…

    1. 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..

    1. 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. 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. 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. 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?

    1. I do. I’m a proponent of fan fiction.

  16. 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?

    1. :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. 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)…

    1. 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. 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

  20. Hi, i just finished this awesome trilogy (the french edition), and was wondering about the dome when i found this great topic.
    I loved these books, and read the first one in 24h over a weekend and the others in the week following :)
    I especially loved how Donald felt like on his first shift. A totally clueless and drugged clerk embodying the figure of stability and authority against his will ! These chapters on the power of symbols were awesome.

    Here are some questions:
    1:Is the dome formed by the nanos released at each cleaning ? What is the lifespan of those nanos ?
    2: Do the civilians in the silos 2 to 50 receive the drug to erase trauma ? (i think i read it’s in their water as well but i’m not sure, if so why ? ).
    3: If i get it right, everyone on earth had bad nanos waiting to blow off in their blood, so did that blow coincidated with the timing of the nuclear attack or did it happen after everyone got in the silos?
    Had the democrats all been to a nano chamber to get cured prior to the convention ? How could this be ? Or were they cured by good nanos put in the air when they entered the silos (the white fog) ?
    4: Is the air in the silo renewed by the greenhouses or is there some kind of filter ?
    5: How can they dig mines and not go horizontally, and how can it not interfere with the oil drill ?
    6: Is that a nuclear reactor in silo 1 ? Its explosion do not lead to any other threat ?
    7: Did all the rogue silos around silo 40 get bombed too ?
    8: Is the flash at the convention a nuclear attack ? Or is it a way to activate the killer nanos ?
    9: The nanos forming the dome, are they different from the ones of the planet-scale attack ? I mean they eat everything alive. If they had eaten everything on earth there would not be trees at the end of Shift. So maybe the nanos of the big attack were only aimed at humans ?
    10: how can Juliette & co survive outside prior to the 500 years countdown ? Shouldn’t the killer nanos be still active outside the zone ? Is it because they got good nanos in silo 17 ?

    And to reply to jane johnson:
    1: the women were freezed to give men a motivation: meeting them at the end of their shifts
    2: the 500 years wait was to make sure no one had survived.
    3: i think thurman was the leader of some kind of shadow government more powerful than the actual one, that didn’t even get saved.

    Thank you Hugh Howey for this wonderful books !

  21. Masterful Trilogy! I loved so much about the story. Also liked the way characters and their intentions often seemed to be headed in one way, but then situations overtake them with unexpected outcomes. One burning question, did you have the entire story written in outline or in your mind when you wrote Wool? Or did some of the major plot components come during the writing of Shift and Dust? Thanks for a fantastic read!

  22. While we are talking spoilers, what was the deal with the incredibly delicious tea-like drink that Juliet drank in the epilogue?

    Am I the only one who through it was sinister that it made her consider going back to the Seed for more?

    It seemed strange that the drink was so emphasized without further explanation.

    1. It was just some herbal tea. The silos had nothing like it, so it tasted new to her. Our world is what we make of it.

      1. Well, now you have shot down my plot for the TEA fanfic sequel ;)

        But seriously, Thank you for the clarification. :)

        And thank you for writing the Silo series, I have enjoyed them immensely!

  23. Awesome series! You have made me want to learn more about you… Based on the level of character development in this series and how well it all was woven together, I picture that you were a working stiff like me, who was going home at night and really thinking about this story for years. I also live that you banged this out on your own sans publishing house!

    1. Was the blast that they saw at the convention a nuclear one, or just a huge bomb over Atlanta that Thurman arranged to panic people underground?
    2. Were there bombs that were dropped around the world on Convention Day?
    3. After the epilog with them around the fire, there is a scene where the survivors are opening a hatch. I can’t for the life of me picture what is happening in this scene… Please help.
    4. What do you percieve to be the state of the world for the survivors? Do you think they will encounter nuclear reactors that have melted down without mankind to shut them off?
    5. I was hoping that the nanos had gone all “Day After Tomorrow” (recent one with Keaneu Reeves) and had eaten anything man made on the earth. But you say they were just forming a dome of death over the silos. Can you please help me understand the cloud of manos and how they stay in one spot?
    Thanks much for a wonderful series! I pray you will return to it one day.

  24. Sorry for the autocorrect on my phone… Love became live and nanos became manos for some reason. :)

  25. Also, Hugh, I wanted to beg you to have Audible find a new reader for Wool. I have recommended the series to others and they drop out, never listening to the other books because the two options for narrorators of the Wool collection are just so bad!

    Thanks for listening to my little rant.

  26. I would have loved to hear the detailed story about silo 40! Could be the story for book 4..

    1. It’s already being written. Check Hugh’s tweet from 2021

  27. Just finished all stories including the ‘Silo Stories’. I was so distressed by the inevitable conclusion of “In the woods” that it took ne a few hours to understand the words ands behaviour of the degenerates that attacked April and Remy. And their fate, according to April’s words. 🙄 Dark, Hugh! So dark! 😁

  28. In the epilogue of Dust it talks about the survivors carrying a body along with them but it never says who it was. Can you please clarify if it was a character we met in the books or just an unknown person from 18???

    1. I thought it was Solo until we heard from him a few pages later. Then I thought it could be Charlotte. But I’m sure it’s someone who didn’t make it, from Silo 18 since they have fewer good nanos in their blood.

    2. It was one of the dead residents of Silo 17, body preserved by the good nanos sent by Anna from Silo 1, that the survivors took with them to provide a proper burial. The mentioned survivors carrying the body are just one group of many.

  29. I thought it was Solo as well, then yeah he pops up. Then I was just like WHO IS IT! For the whole rest of the epilogue. I was so distracted by that that I had to go back and reread it.

  30. Hi, late to the party on this, so not sure if anyone still reading the comments. I loved all the books, but am still quite confused with what happened to Silo 40, and the other silo in the blackout. I saw Hugh say some survivors of 40 made it to others? What happened? I seem to have missed all of this bit!

    1. yes I just finished too and this article cleared everything up except all questions regarding silo 40 and all of the other silos that went dark with it! How did silo 40 help Anna switch silo 17 with good nanos? Also, if Anna flooded silo 17 with good nanos why would there be a panic coming from the bottom? it makes sense to panic if white gas is making people bleed and die but not otherwise. And why did Anna choose silo 17? why would she randomly turn on a shutdown protocol switched with good nanos if silo 17 was running normally and wasn’t even slated for a shutdown? she effectively killed everyone instead of helping since the airlock opened. Also how did Jimmy’s dad have advanced warning? So confused by this.

      1. I think that Anna switched the gas lines to provide good nanos at an earlier date to prevent future silos from being murdered. Then, when things went down at Silo 17, they received the good nanos. Her adjustment stayed in place until Thurman fixed it later to kill Silo 18.

  31. Really liked book 1+3.
    Nice world and character building. Good twists mostly.

    Book 2 felt like a drag to me.
    Very early on, readers of “Wool” are given the info what Thurman plans to do to the world. He even gives Donald lots of hints. Yet it takes dumb Donald the whole book to not figure things out. His best quality to Thurman must have been his immense naivety and follower mentality. He does one idiot move after another (given what info he already has and what his hopes are). Only at the very end in book 3 he all of a sudden has and spills all the info on Charlotte and Darcy (like what exactly Anna did and which the reader did not know until then)

    Similarly with Solo/Jimmy. The person and Silo 18 was not so important or complex that we needed half a book spent on him.

    And Lukas, a very interesting character appears to learn things that make Juliette’s actions look somewhere between very dangerous and utterly futile. Much of that info she disbelieves. In that sense as much of Silo’s 17’s end is on his as on Juliette’s and Donald’s heads.

    I think the story would have been about equally good with just books 1+3 and a short story on Donald’s and Jimmy’s origins.

    1. I have seen a lot of people say they didn’t like Shift, and it’s understandable because it’s a very uncomfortable book.

      Despite that, it’s a crucial component of the story and is a fascinating exploration of duty, identity, isolation, and purpose. Donald’s character is flawed but he strives to do the right thing.

      Thurman has a messiah complex but in his (limited) defense, is faced with a horrific situation with no clear easy answers.

      Jimmy is kind of the other side of the side of the isolation that Donald faces. The story is ultimately about the survival of humanity and how it’s not just having material needs met, but how important connection is to make it worth living.

  32. The Amazon link in the second paragraph may confuse some folks because Amazon removed the comment functionality (along with all existing comments) back in 2020. So there is a review, but no response.

    If anyone wants to read Hugh’s explanation of the ending of A WALK UP NAMELESS RIDGE, I tracked it down in the Wayback Machine, and copy it below.


    Hugh C. Howey says:

    I’m sure it means different things to different people, but this is what it means to me:


    A man who secretly wishes others to die so that he can be the “first” to conquer a goal is saved by a climber who cares nothing for notoriety. Ziba is a diminutive woman who ends up being the bigger man (pardon a sexist phrase; it’s meant to be ironic).

    What would our nameless protagonist have done if he’d found one of the earlier climbers dying on the summit? I can picture him shoving the body off and staggering back to camp a fingerless and footless hero. I can’t see him trying to save the man’s life and thereby creating a hero in another. To Ziba and Cardhill, saving the life is all that matters. And climbing the peak is all that matters. Being famous for anything never crosses their minds.

    Mountaineering seems to me a good metaphor for ego. Not because climbers are egoistic, but because mountains are stand-ins for every sort of accomplishment. This, then, is a story with that framework but the opposite message. And the real protagonist is Ziba, not the nameless observer. It’s her story, slyly told by a witness. Why is she nearly invisible in the tale? Because that’s what the narrator’s audience does to her after he survives the climb. He tells them the true story, but all they hear is that he was the first to make it. They (we) care more about primacy and less about worth. In this way, the short story is also about us.

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