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So this is where Hugh Howey and I will part company.

I bought Sand when it was released, buoyed by the first two novels in the Wool series (Wool and Shift). I had not yet been disappointed by the final Wool novel (Dust).

So, I have had this sitting on my Kindle for a while, not being quite sure what to expect. And it started off well. The creation of a dystopian world, a future Colorado, swamped by sand. People diving through the sand in suits that can channel the sand around the diver, creating solid sand or liquefying it as needed. Treasure hunters, diving for lost cities, bringing up artefacts from the 21st century – that the reader will view as mundane but to the characters represent a priceless link with a lost civilisation.

But the characterisation is cardboard, the situation strains credulity and the plot slows to almost stationary at times. Seriously, where did the sand come from? Why did people not just move away when the sand came? Why do people insist on trying to live in cities built on sand rather than live in tents like present day desert dwellers?

There are multiple strands of story but mostly they just seem to involve people chasing after each other through the desert. There’s no rhyme or reason to the endless chasing. Ultimately, that means you lose any incentive to barrack for the good guys; you don’t care whether they get caught by the bad guys; you just wish it would happen slightly more quickly. Running through sand is very, very s l o w. Until we get to the end, and that is quite quick. Suddenly there are many people, all coming together at once, seismic change and general chaos. The dust never quite settles and it’s not clear what the ending actually means.

Had this been Wool, I would now have expected a sequel setting out the background to the sand, and a third book charting the escape from the sand. However, Hugh Howey tells us that this is a standalone novel with no plans for sequels. Given how dull this one is, that’s probably a good thing.

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