Author: Hugh Howey
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Genre: Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy, Science-Fiction
Format Read: eARC, 384 pages
Publication Date: 5th June 2014 by Random House Australia
Synopsis: “The old world is buried. A new one has been forged atop the shifting dunes. Here in this land of howling wind and infernal sand, four siblings find themselves scattered and lost. Their father was a sand diver, one of the elite few who could travel deep beneath the desert floor and bring up the relics and scraps that keep their people alive. But their father is gone. And the world he left behind might be next.
Welcome to the world of Sand, the first new novel from New York Times bestselling author Hugh Howey since his publication of the Silo Saga. Unrelated to those works, which looked at a dystopian world under totalitarian rule, Sand is an exploration of lawlessness. Here is a land ignored. Here is a people left to fend for themselves. Adjust your ker and take a last, deep breath before you enter.” (Taken from Goodreads)
I’ve heard a lot of great things about Hugh Howey and his writing, but I must admit that this is the first novel I’ve read by him. I found it fascinating to read a novel so completely different to the many dystopians being published these days – a novel that was about lawlessness rather than totalitarian rule. It was refreshing, and a great introduction to Howey’s writing style.
Sand follows the lives of four siblings from a broken family where the dad left them for the hope of a better world, and the mum is a prostitute to make ends meet. They live in a desert land filled with the incessant torment of the sand surrounding them, sand that can bury your whole home overnight. Two of the siblings are sand-divers like their father, a profession that requires you to dive deep into the sand to retrieve lost artifacts from cities that were lost long ago. It’s a dangerous job that ends with many deaths, and for Palmer, the eldest boy in the family, he soon realises just how deadly it can get when he mixes with a crowd that’s searching for the lost city of Danvar.
While the story is told from four different perspectives, I found all the characters to be well developed and realistic, and it was very easy to distinguish the voices of each character. Palmer, a good diver who is living in his dad and sister’s shadow, was enlisted to help find Danvar. Of course, things suddenly turn for the worse and he finds himself struggling to survive and almost buried alive. There is no such thing as friendship, especially when your own life is on the line in this world. The desert is brutal, and the gritty way Howey describes it makes it seem so poignantly real.
The story starts off with all the siblings living separately, but as it progresses, we see them finding each other again during their hardest times. Through the discovery of a conspiracy and the realisation that their father might still be alive, the siblings and their mother finally come together again to help each other survive.
While certainly a very well-written novel, I found the plot to be a little lackluster. The majority of the novel is devoted to building this world of Sand, which unfortunately meant the plot dragged along a little. The conspiracy that propels the story along does not occur until three-quarters of the way into the book (perhaps a little earlier), which is a good setup for the next novel, but wasn’t very exciting for me. However, the world-building and characterisations more than make up for that. Howey ensures that the reader does not leave the novel without really getting to know the characters that reside in his new world. And he achieved this in Sand.
This book is definitely a worthwhile read for lovers of Hugh Howey and sci-fi mixed with fantasy. While the plot moves slowly, the book more than makes up for it with its world-building and characters. I will be keeping an eye out for the next novel!
Thank you to Random House Australia for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.