Dust is the third and final book in Hugh Howey's Silo series. For a review of Wool, the first book in the series, click here. For a review of Shift, the second book in the series, click here. Below are the "Reading Group Questions" found at the back of the book:
Q: "Lukas and Juliette don't always see eye to eye when it comes to her plans for the future. Were you backing Juliette all the way in her decisions? Or did you disagree with anything she did?"
A: Lukas isn't any better developed in Dust than he was in Shift. I'm hazy as to what his plans for Juliette's future were. Points of view opposed to Juliette's aren't presented in any kind of detail, and this one-sidedness makes it hard to disagree with anything she does.
Q: "Donald soon discovers that Anna was working against her father, in order to help the people of silo forty. Have your feelings changed toward Anna since Shift? Do you think she could have helped Donald in Dust? How"
A: Does he he make this kind of discovery though? He has a feeling she was working against her father, but this feeling is never confirmed by subsequent events. Anna, like Lukas, isn't a well developed character, so I never had any feelings about her one way or the other. Could she have helped Donald in Dust? Well, we know that she was proficient in programming (and things of that sort) while Donald isn't, so yes, she could have helped him if she'd been inclined to do so.
Q: "In an exchange with Nelson, Juliette considers how someone 'just doing their job' can lead them to doing some very nasty things. Other than Nelson, are there any other characters in the trilogy that you can relate this to? Would you consider Thurman to be one of these people?"
A: This question reminds me of high school English. It's the kind of question the teacher would ask while you were reading The Diary of Anne Frank or something like that. Blind obedience bad! Questioning authority good! Unless of course political correctness is at issue.
With characters who are little more that ciphers (or placeholders) it's hard to gauge how closely they're fulfilling (or not fulfilling) the responsibilities of their jobs. Add to this the fact that the author never really describes what anyone's job really is.I am, in other words, unable to answer the question.
Q: "Solo places a lot of trust in Jules [Juliette] - not only that she will come back for him, but that she will give him a better life than the one he currently has. Why does he trust her so completely? Should he have trusted her?"
A: Because he doesn't have a choice?
Q: "Juliette's decisions lead her to the truth, but they also result in numerous deaths. Would silo eighteen have been a better place if Juliette had never returned?"
A: A better place in the short term? Probably. In the long term? The powers that be would have buried them under tons of concrete. That was the overall plan, wasn't it?
And "the truth?" What was the truth exactly? That there was a magic dome of nanotechnology suspended over their silos? A dome that's beyond the technological capabilities of the time that produced it? A dome that's never explained? This "twist" (if you can call it that) has to be the most irritating part of the book. Not only does the author spend way too much time foreshadowing it, but when you finally get there it's like "What? That's it? And now they're all free, without any lasting psychological effects?"
Q: "Shirly seals the entrance to silo seventeen, ensuring her death in the poisoned silo. Did she really not know what she was doing? Or did she want to end life without her husband? Was this her way of choosing her own fate?"
A: I'm pretty sure she knew what she was doing. Did the person writing these questions not read the book? Her character is just barely introduced at the end of Wool, so again it's hard to gauge her motivations.
Q: "Through Elise's eyes, we see how people turn to religion in times of fear and the unknown. What does this say about the power of religion? Can you relate this to our society's relationship with religion?"
A: Sorry but there's just not enough about religion in the book for me to make that kind of assessment. A few crazies pop up near the end, and the author engages in a half-hearted discussion of the role of religion plays in people's lives, but the religion under discussion is never described. It seems to be an offshoot of Christianity, but I'm not even sure about that.
Q: "Darcy gives Charlotte the benefit of the doubt, and risks his life on what she tells him. Would Charlotte and Donald have succeeded without him? Why do you think he believes her so quickly? Would you have believed her?"
A: It's obvious they wouldn't have succeeded without him, though it's never evident that Darcy believes them entirely. This is another question that points to the book's real weakness: the psychology of several characters never makes sense.
For example I take you and several other people, and bury you all in a big hole for several hundred years. Some of you I put in suspended animation, and wake up periodically so you can fulfill certain functions. Others I allow (or force) to live normal lifespans, to the point where your children and your children's children can't remember what the world outside the big hole is/was like. Are you or anyone else I've put into the hole going to think like present-day people? Are we going to have the same values? Are we going to define ourselves in the same way?
Would I have believed Charlotte? I don't know, I haven't been told why Darcy was put into the hole, or his personal reasons for being there. We know he's just stopped taking the medication, but we know nothing about his worldview or what keeps him going.
Q: "Juliette has had quite a difficult relationship with her father throughout the trilogy. Once they reach the outside, he wants to be the first to take his helmet off and Juliette agrees. How do you feel their relationship has changed from Wool to this point? Why?"
A: They've spent time together, they've overcome some of their differences. That's it.
Q: "Ultimately, Donald is the one who causes the fall of silo one, and destroys what he first created. Is this him killing himself before Thurman can kill him? Or is this his way of atoning for his sins?"
A: But he didn't create silo one. He only designed a small part of it. He was going to die either way after his exposure to the nanomachines, so I'm not sure what atonement has to do with anything.
Q: "Juliette realises at the end that in asking people to believe in what she had seen, she wasn't being fair - knowing that if the roles were reversed, she would not believe it herself. How would you feel if you were in her position? What about if you were a member of silo eighteen? Would you believe her?"
A: Well everyone saw her walk over the hill, and they later saw her come back, so obviously something happened. Various other characters have also communicated with other silos, so there has to be some kind of explanation.
Q:"Throughout the trilogy, a number of the characters stand up for what they believe is right, even if it means going against the rules, from Juliette and Lukas, to Donald and Charlotte - and even Shaw in his own way. Who do you believe is the true hero of the trilogy? Why?"
A: I think the true hero of the trilogy is me, the guy that waded through three books in which most of the characters were never properly developed, and which are capped by one of the most infuriating endings ever. As an example of world-building this story has a lot of holes, and not just the holes various groups are living in. The author of this book had one job - ONE job - and that was to explain how these people had been detained in an interesting way - and he fails to do that. I get mad again just thinking about it.