Rumour has it Eskimos have fifty different words for snow. Well, they ain’t got spit on Hugh Howey and his encyclopedia of sand.
Have you ever been to the beach? Have you ever built a sand castle? Have you ever pretended to be Godzilla or Megazord, crashing through your sandy metropolis and wondering exactly why you’re feeling no remorse? These buildings are so easy to destroy…look at the little people scream…Me neither. But Hugh Howey has.
‘How deep must you go to uncover the truth?’ asks the tagline. Deeper than this book is the answer. I came away from Sand with more questions than answers, which isn’t always a bad thing. The biggest one being that of Vic’s fate, and what exactly the strange people over in No Man’s Land are really doing, and why they wanted the people of Low-pub and Springston dead. I suspect there’ll be a second installment in the Sandy series, but for the meanwhile, these questions linger on, just like that weird rash you’ve got.
I’m a fan of leaving a few things whipping in the wind. Audiences aren’t idiots, and shouldn’t be treated as though they are. I don’t need to be spoon-fed, but I do like some stories wrapped up. As it stands, Sandcastles feels like it ends on the penultimate chapter. We’re left with Conner, Rosie, Palmer, Rob and that other girl as they wait for Vic to return from No Man’s Land. The nuke goes off, and then it starts to rain. Which doesn’t really wrap anything up. Is Brock dead? Did the kid’s father survive? Did Vic survive? Is Springston rebuilt? Will the family head west to the mountains like their father told them to? Why should I care about their random half-sister? All these questions and more!
But let’s talk about what the book did do, rather than what it didn’t. It built a great world. It gave us engaging characters that are easy to get behind. It gave us a gripping narrative that doesn’t hold back the punches or shy away from the gory reality of a harsh post-disastrous world. The concept in particular is fascinating. The world is buried in sand (hence the name). Humanity has developed suits that allow them to manipulate the sand, making it have the same effect that I do on girls. The protagonists swim through the sand like divers. Guess what they call ‘em? Go on. It’s not a trick question. It’s Divers. They call them Divers. Divers use their magic suits to swim down to the buried civilisation below and pull all sorts of treasures free. Like suitcases full of dirty underwear. Score.
What’s more interesting than the setting is exactly how the sand got there in the first place. Something that isn’t ever really addressed, only briefly. See, it’s coming from No Man’s Land. The people who want to blow up Low-pub are the same people digging (or something) and all of that sand is flying over the horizon, burying the world. Now that’s ruddy cool. It’s a shame that Howey spends no time on what is probably the more epic part of his book. It’s a passing comment, just a line of dialogue. We don’t even get to follow Vic out there to watch as she blows it up. It’s left me with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. I want so desperately to be able to see this machine. To know what the antagonists could possibly be doing to cause so much destruction, but we’re never really shown. It’s both a missed opportunity and very clever. If there is a second Sandrash book, I’ll be sure to buy it.
Having said that, I’ll buy it with some reservations. Whilst Howey’s ideas are spectacular, his prose isn’t my idea of a french fancy. He doesn’t always write in full sentences, which infuriates me because I can’t get away with it. I found these moments to break my immersion. I found myself thinking about the writing as opposed to the story which I don’t think was intentional. I’ve not read any of Howey’s ‘Wool’ series, but I’ve heard good things. I wonder if he’s written these in the same sort of style.
Whilst I’m moaning, what the hell was up with Palmer’s story? His was absolutely the most interesting character until he got out of Danver and became Skeletor’s gym-shy cousin. Disappointed with the direction of Palmer; not once did he put on his Atom suit and shrink down to the size of–wait, wrong series.
SAND is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel from bestselling author, Hugh Howey. It’s one of the most original books I’ve read in a long time and well worth the read.