The Silo Wars – Part 1

A rough draft of the first chapter of an upcoming book. Just to piss you off.


Juliette leaned into the excavator while the others watched. Her body shook as the heavy metal piston slammed into the concrete wall again and again. The vibrations felt violent enough to knock a tooth loose. Every bone and joint shuddered, and old wounds ached with reminders. Her right hand was already numb, that annoying twinge in her elbow resurfacing. And she could tell, as she ate through inches of stout wall, that her shoulder would be flaring up again from the abuse. Not to mention her web of a thousand scars. It felt as though they were all on fire once more.

Off to the side of the generator room, the miners who normally manned the excavator watched unhappily. Juliette turned her head as powdered concrete billowed out from the wall. She saw the way the miners were watching her, arms crossed over wide chests, jaws set in rigid frowns. Were they angry at her for appropriating their gear? For insisting that she be the one to bore the first hole? Or was it the fear of broken taboo, of digging where it was forbidden?

She swallowed the grit and chalk accumulating in her mouth and concentrated on the crumbling wall. There was another possibility, one she couldn’t help but fear. A lot of good men and women had died while she was gone. The fighting that broke out here was because she was sent to clean. How many of them had lost a loved one, a best friend, a family member? How many of them blamed her?

Juliette found it hard to believe she might be the only one who did so.

The excavator bucked, and there was the clang of metal on metal. Juliette steered the punching jaws of the machine to the side as bones of rebar appeared through the fog and in the white flesh of concrete. She had already gouged out a veritable crater in the outer silo wall. A first row of rebar hung jagged overhead, the ends smooth like melted candles where she’d taken a blowtorch to them. Two more feet of concrete and another row of the iron rods? Juliette chewed at the stone between them, steering the machine with numb limbs and nerve. If she hadn’t seen the damn schematic herself, if she didn’t know there were other silos out there, she’d have given up already. It felt as though she were chewing through the very earth itself. Her arms shook, her hands a blur. This was the wall of the silo she was attacking, ramming it with a mind to pierce through the damn thing, to bore clear through to the outside.

The miners shifted about uncomfortably; they were probably thinking similar thoughts. Juliette looked from them to where she was aiming as the hammer-bit rang against more iron. She concentrated on the crease of white stone between the two bars. With her boot, she kicked the forward lever, and the excavator trudged ahead an inch. She should’ve taken another break a while ago. The chalk in her mouth had her dying for more water, and her arms needed a rest. There was rubble all around the base of the excavator and her feet. She had kicked a few of the larger chunks out of the way.

Her fear was that if she stopped one more time, she wouldn’t be able to convince them to let her go any further. Mayor or not, there were men she had thought fearless who had left the generator room while she worked. There were those who seemed terrified that she might puncture some sacred seal and let in the foul and murderous air. She saw they way they looked at her, knowing she’d been on the outside. Like she was a ghost. They kept their distance as if she harbored a virus, like she was some walking pestilence. Juliette set her teeth, could feel the grit crunch and crack between them, and kicked the forward plate again with her boot. Another inch. Goddamn the fighting and her friends dead. Goddamn the thought of Solo and the kids all alone over there, a forever of rock away. And goddamn this mayor nonsense, people looking at her like she suddenly ran all the shifts on every level, like she knew what the hell she was doing, like they had to obey her even as they feared her—

The excavator lurched forward more than an inch; the pounding hammer-bit screamed with a piercing whine. Juliette lost her grip with one hand, and the machine revved up like it was fit to explode. The miners startled like fleas, several of them running toward her, their shadows converging. Juliette hit the red kill switch, which was nearly invisible beneath a dusting of white powder. The excavator kicked and buckled as it wound down from its dangerous state.

“You’re through! You’re through!”

Raph pulled her back, his strong arms from years of mining wrapping around her numb limbs. They were telling her she was done. Finished. The excavator had made a noise like some connecting rod had shattered, that dangerous whine of a powerful engine running without friction, without anything to stop it. Juliette felt herself sag in Raph’s embrace. The desperation returned, the thought of her friends buried alive in some tomb of an empty silo and unable to reach them.

“You’re through, get back!”

A hand that smelled of grease clamped down over her mouth, more fear of the air beyond, and Jules saw a black patch of empty space as the billowing concrete dissipated. She saw a dark void beyond those bars of iron, those prison bars that ran two deep and all around them, from Mechanical to the up top, encasing them in this blasted cell, this prison cut off from the others, and now she was through. Through. With a glimpse of some other outside—

“The torch,” she mumbled, prying Raph’s calloused hand from her mouth. “Get me the cutting torch. And a flashlight.”

56 responses to “The Silo Wars – Part 1”

  1. In the words of Bart Scott: “Can’t Wait!” And congratulations on making me even more excited for this!

    1. I’m having a hard time grasping what is harder, living in the dystopian wasteland that is the world of Wool, or being a Jets fan. I’ve been a Jets fan my whole life, so all I can say is that being sent for cleaning can’t be all that bad.

  2. It’s great that you share the process with us. I love seeing your rough draft and then comparing it later to the polished product. As one who loves to pick and sort and analyze the writing process, I learn so much from successful authors such as yourself who are willing to make themselves available to the ones like myself who are still learning the craft. What a valuable lesson for me. Thanks, Hugh! (By the way, for a rough draft, it’s pretty smooth!)

    1. Ditto the thanks from Harlow – it’s fun to be allowed into the creative process, the first draft stage, the revisions (how long you’ll sustain it, we don’t know). You know it’s dangerous to read feedback on an unfinished work, but I meant to say you could employ “deep point of view” more than you do. Here, you start to:
      “How many of them had lost a loved one, a best friend, a family member? How many of them blamed her?”
      But you follow it up with “Juliette found it hard to believe she might be the only one who did so.” Hemingway exhorted writers to make every sentence great, and that one just isn’t there yet. But KEEP WRITING to the end! Smooth out wrinkles later.

  3. that is bad ass, i have a friend that got me into the books. we like to just talk about the books and what we think is going to happen next, and that excerpt allows me to say the following sentence “in your face, Shane!”. Also, i am super excited and cant wait!

  4. Well, you did what you said. You pissed me off. I do want more.

  5. oooooooo…That is awesome. Can’t wait to read more.

  6. Silo Wars! Did your mother forget to read you the “happily ever after” stories when you were a child?

    I love it!

    1. LOL, i wonder how a Hugh Howey version of snow white or cinderella would look like. Pretty sure the dwarfs would be the first ones to get screwed.

  7. Oh great, my WOOL itch is back now. Excited to see the progress meter shift on the left side of the page. Spotted a typo: “She saw they way they looked at her”.

  8. MORE!! MORE!!! I’m dying to get my little fingers on all the new silo books!

  9. gah! I had the greatest post written then wordpress coughed and I lost it.

    Hugh, thank you.

    You know you are dangling raw meat above the slavering jaws of us all.

  10. This is destined to be the greatest work with a four letter “s” word followed by “wars” for the title. I just finished wool 1-5 today and checked the website to see when new stuff was coming and saw this. It made my day. Mr. Howey, thanks for the wonderful work that is wool, and I will definitely be checking out your other, non silo works as well.

      1. To be the greatest S—Wars story yet, it would have to be *better than* Star Wars. Silo Wars could become equal to the other one, maybe. I haven’t seen the evidence yet, but Hugh Howey is full of surprises.

  11. Just checked this out after finishing “First Shift”!

    ARRRGHHH! Stop taking vaca’s to hang out with Bezos and Eisler and write faster! Damn you!

    Seriously, keep the good stuff coming. Loved the interviews BTW.

  12. Simple incredible! I miss Jules.

    1. I meant “simply incredible”!

  13. bozothedeathmachine Avatar

    You, sir, are the literary equivalent of a crack dealer.

    Just a little taste…

    1. Opening lines are not as classic, memorable and riveting as opener to WOOL, Book One. It’s good, but not as good as what came before. Chalk it up to first-draft-itis. Call upon your Shakespeare odes, remember that what works for the poet worked for you in WOOL – economy, a few select images, more showing than telling. Also, you still haven’t nailed “voice” the way authors such as Rod Usher does, or even that awful rat in “Dr. Rat.” But I’m still one of your most ardent fans.

      1. Even if you didn’t offer me any quotable new quotes for Perihelion, a magazine that began in the 1970s by college students, and printed the first works of Dean Koontz, and featured interviews with Asimov and Clark themselves. :-)

        1. If you have any short science fiction stories written in your younger days, you might consider selling them to Sam Bellotto at Perihelion. Who knows – you might even suffer your first rejection letter. :-)

  14. OMFG!!! More, more!!


  15. So after ruminating on this for a day I now see a pretty big problem for Jules here:

    Every silo in the interior of the complex has at least 4 adjacent silos and more likely to be 6 (think honeycomb design). Add to that the fact that everyone in the silo have limited concepts of direction and from the surface to the Down Deep is an exceedingly long distance making it difficult for even seasoned civil engineers to know which way is which.

    So – It appears Jules in her effort to connect with Solo and the kids has pierced her way into an adjacent silo…but which one?!?

    1. I’m thinking Jules was using the standard mining gear in the silos to break through to the “real” digging equipment in the secret room in her own silo, i.e., she hasn’t yet tunneled to an adjacent silo.

  16. OMG, OMG. Damn you Hugh Howey! I’ve been waiting sooo long for just getting this tiny bit! You don’t like your readers… And I cannot come to you wherever you are in your country and give you … Maybe a hug? Because I live in Europe! Yes, we here know about you and your excellent books. Please write faster! Forget zombies, write WOOL!!!

  17. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  18. what mark said, what mark said…..maaaaahahhhh!!!

  19. Well, you heard. Forget zombies, write WOOL. Or Silo, or whatever we’re calling this month. I’ll vote for that.

    Wonderful segment, rough draft or not!

    *ahem* Let’s note that Jules can simply put on a much improved cleaning suit and WALK to Silo 17, the bottom of which is full of water anyway. No need to tunnel to that particular silo. Yet.

    Here’s what pisses me off. *copy this password* again and again and again…AARRGH!

  20. Dammit…. I love your brain, Hugh. ;)

  21. I’m looking forward to your new book. I just discovered the “Wool” series about a month ago, I couldn’t put them down. I’ve got a coworker and my great aunt hooked on them, and I’ve posted some great reviews on Facebook. I really like the way you write.

  22. Can’t wait to read !! Have now read all your other books and have a “jones” for more !

  23. Well, old chap, guess a couple months back when I mentioned it was time to “start tunneling” I wasn’t that far off base. Ya know, going sideways isn’t that bad an idea. After all, I bet most people feel like they’ve been going sideways most of their lives. E-Ticket rides just don’t merely travel up and down. Wondering when you are going to hit an alternative universe (self medicating old farts like me know it’s there); or perhaps stumble upon some really, really old nooks and crevices. Those dark, endless portals can open up a new perspective for us, add some intrigue, and really twist the environment around. After all, take some risks, what’ve ya got to lose? I’ll take that ride with Juliette, I trust her balance and judgement… and I’ll believe her confusion. And live it.

  24. I didn’t even realize how much I missed Jules until I read this. It feels to right to be back by her side, cheering her on. :-)

    You know I can’t wait to get my grubby paws on it!!

  25. Confession time: Yes I was sucked in yet AGAIN! Forgot I was reading an exclusive small extract and was wound into the world of WOOL….. wow is all I can say!

  26. That was a wonderful birthday present. The WOOL books have fast become one of my favorite books and you posted that tantalizing chapter on my bday, Sept 12! THANK YOU! I am so excited for the finished product!

  27. Great… now all I’ll be able to think about is that dark cavern and where the heck it goes… You know I do have a life and this does not help! Write faster! Okay thanks =)

  28. My favorite part of this teaser is how the workers in mechanical have an awe and explicit fear of Jules now. She is the mayor. She has been outside. She is to be feared. But when Jules breaks through Raph comes to pull her away from the outside. He covers her mouth to keep the poison out. He protects her.

  29. I told myself I wasn’t going to read it. I even managed to wait several days as I saw it when it was first posted. Then I made the mistake of reading some of the comments today at lunch, and well now I read it. I’m disappointed now, but only that I can’t read the rest of the book. Looking forward to the next book with even more excitement now.

    Also, your rough drafts seem so clean. Makes me jelaous as I have been trying to start writing recently.

  30. Loved these books! Can’t wait for next series!

  31. How did I miss this last week? Thanks, Hugh. Now go back to writing!

  32. Absolutely cannot wait any longer! Jules rocks!!!

  33. How the hell did I miss this? I read everything you post as though you were bringing down the 10 commandments. Write faster.

  34. OMG!!!! I can’t wait!!!!! It sounds like it will be amazing!
    THANK YOU!!!!

  35. Fantastic! Just finished Wool. Just finished the report for the book group too – which was more difficult than you might imagine as there are so many issues covered in Wool! And, after feeling bereft for 2 hours, I find there is a little more from the world I don’t want to leave just yet.

    One thing though, calling it the Silo Wars? I can see good reasons for that, but isn’t is a spoiler for people starting Wool? They don’t know there is more than one yet?

  36. I am absolutely LOVING this series!!! I just finished 1st shift after reading Wool 1-5. My Hubby had started reading these books and told me that I need too. I read Wool 1 and was extremely pissed after the killing of Holston and did not want to read anymore. But after a week or so Hubby convinced me to keep reading. I am extremely happy that I took his advice!!! I have loved this series and cannot wait for 2nd Shift and Wool 9!!!

    1. Thanks, Amy! Glad you stuck with it. :D

  37. Uh mah gah! I love Jules! So my suggestion is to keep doling out the chapters like a serial novel. No, just kidding. I loooove the Wool series. Hurry hurry hurry and finish #7!!! Thank you, Mr. Howey, for this tidbit of Jules and her people. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Second Shift first chapter. You rock!

  38. You and I, my friend, have a love/hate relationship. I am absorbed in your books and neglect my family. You may be getting hate mail from my family when Dust/Silo Wars comes out. My husband calls your books my heroin. Yeah. But anyway – Just read the “taste” and…you’re right.
    I am pissed!
    My new favorite author.

  39. Just caught up with this. Astounding! You are such a tease… please keep going… until you’re THROUGH. :-)

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