Just like, Wool, Hugh Howey‘s novel Sand is set in a post-apocalyptic scenario. And that’s about all, that the settings of these two novels have in common. While in Wool the people live in an enclosed and strictly regulated environment the opposite is true for Sand: The world has turned into a desert, everything is buried in sand, sometimes hundreds of meters deep. (The novel uses the metric system! I only just noticed.) This makes water a rare commodity: deep wells have to be dug and the sand that keeps blowing in from the east has to be constantly removed to keep the water accessible.
A special, rather fantastical element in my opinion, of the novel’s world-building is “sand diving”. “Talented” people wearing dive-suits and air-supply tanks with visors that allow them to see below the sand, are able to dive underground as if they were diving through water. The technology behind this is just some magic wand waving and I have know idea how this is supposed to work or even how this could work, but the idea is pretty cool.
The novel focuses on the siblings of a family: Palmer, the eldest son, Vic, his sister, and his younger brothers Conner, an adolescent, and Rob, a twelve-year-old. When their father left the family to hike east in search for a better life, their mother was left without a means to support the family and they became poor. The novel is set 12 years after the father left the family.
The book starts off with Palmer: He’s taken a dive job with his friend Hap that’s supposed to pay a full month’s wage in just two days, and everyone with half a brain should know, that there’s something going on here. Not so Hap and Palmer. They are led to a secret camp where they are asked to dive down very deep, several hundred meters, further than they ever went, to search for an ancient buried city: Danvar.
The story-telling is exciting and the characters are well-thought out, believable and interesting. Still, Sand isn’t as good as Wool. This doesn’t mean that Sand is not a good novel. It is. It’s just not as amazingly awesome as Wool.
Why do I feel this way about Sand? I believe there are two reasons for this. Firstly, there are a lot of small things that felt illogical to me. Most of them I can’t mention as they would be spoilery, but there’s one example that comes to mind: The novel is set in a desert. It’s very dry there and water has to be rationed. But old bread gets moldy… (That does not make sense. It should have just dried out…) I know, this is a tiny thing, but there were several things that had me think “Huh? How’s that possible/ going to work?” like that one did. Secondly (and more importantly), the ending felt rushed. Some things were resolved in a boom-bang kind of way, but several strands remained loose. I believe a better ending could have been possible for this novel, so I am a somewhat disappointed by the ending. It’s still a good read, and I recommend reading Sand, especially if you like post-apocalyptic settings.
Disclaimer: I got a free digital review copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.