Book Review: SAND by Hugh Howey

***New SAND fan fiction by Timothy C. Ward, Scavenger: Red Sands (Scavenger #1), and Scavenger: Blue Dawn (Scavenger #2), sold with permission by Hugh Howey***

I finished Sand this morning and was surprised to find a tear. I’ve wanted to cry from reading a book before, and did at the end of listening to 11/22/63, but never have while reading someone else’s fiction. Sand Omnibus did that. I’m not sure I could give a stronger recommendation. Sand is King of the Hill for 2014’s reading crops, and while it’s early, I expect it to be up there for a good while.

For those unfamiliar with Hugh Howey, more so than his accolades as a self-publishing phenom, are his gifts at making setting illustrate common human struggles and relationships that are closer to your heart than people you meet on paper should be able to evoke.  While his successes are a sign of his talent, what you should be interested in when you hear about Hugh Howey is what it feels like to meet and weep with his characters.

In his Silo series, (Wool, Shift, Dust), people were buried underground in a silo, forced to live in a trapped community afraid of breaking the rules for fear of being sent outside to clean and die. I loved that series most because of the romantic relationship Hugh created between adults and what it feels like to be in the void of separation from a loved one.

In Sand, Hugh is focusing more on the relationships within a family, but he does it just as well. I love the experience of reading his stories.

Their world is covered in sand. It has buried cities and continues to bury generations, leaving life as a constant battle to survive the day when most wonder, what’s the point?

Conner crossed a low dune between a freshly collapsed house and a new one under construction. A handful of men were hauling material from the ruin and nailing it back together two dozen paces away, once again forestalling the inevitable. The most disturbing thing about the scene was how normal it seemed, how many times Conner had watched this play out in Shantytown, a ruin serving as the foundation for new construction. But now his mother had him seeing the commonplace in a new way. If anything, this alien view strengthened his resolve for that night’s plans. It undid what a beer and rabbit stew with Gloralai the night before had started doing to his head.

and then:

The men building the house from the remnants of a house, all these tasks that required doing over and over with no end in sight, filling canteens and eating, shitting, sleeping, looking forward to a weekend and dreading the week that would come after. Life was lived by sissyfoots, all of them. One bucket of sand at a time.

He had to stop thinking like that. There was progress somewhere. Something better.

Hugh’s books are full of these kinds of moving passages, pictures that show us our world in his and make us want to take the journey toward happiness that his characters are on.

Conner is an incredible character, and he’s not the only one in this book. Conner is on the verge of manhood, abandoned by a father who left them to find “something better.” He takes care of his youngest brother, Rob, while his older brother and sister have also left to find “progress.” His mother, Rose, has changed since her husband left her alone to care for the family. She’s callous to herself and to her children, leaving them to fight for survival on their own. The problem for Conner is he has a younger brother that needs him not to do what everyone else in his family has, abandon him.

There is so much to discover by way of growing to love these characters. I don’t want to spoil that experience for you. Read Sand and find out how this civilization has learned to dive through sand as if it were water and discover lost cities. Read for the answers to why the father left, to why the mother has pushed her children away, understand why and weep with them, hoping for a redemption story as you take their mistakes into your life and try not to make the same. Feel anew the strength of familial love and what it can do to push you toward a better, happier life. To break through the ceiling of impossibility.

Sand is only the beginning. Hugh manages to make this an amazing experience and yet we have not embarked on the larger journey to overcome what seems impossible and yet must be. It must.


Sand was originally released in five parts. Now that all are available in the Sand Omnibus version, buy that. At this time, Amazon is the only place to buy it. Hugh is on book tour until March, I believe, and has put a hold on buying autographed copies until he returns. They are worth it, mine came with sand sprinkled inside, a very cool touch.

While we wait for Hugh’s next adventure in the world of Sand, Michael Bunker has already written a Sand fanfiction story, Dunes Over Danvar. I’ve bought mine and have the green light from Hugh to try my hand at writing my own fanfiction in his world. “Scavenger” is a stand alone novelette that could become a series if sales go well. I plan to release that 6/9.

***SAND is now available in the UK!*** Look at that cover!

See below for the newest addition to Sand fanfic, Scavenger by Timothy C. Ward.
Timothy C. Ward
Producer and Contributor

Timothy C. Ward has been podcasting since 2010, first as AudioTim, and now with AISFP. His Sand fan fiction, Scavenger: Red Sandsand Scavenger: Blue Dawn (Scavenger #2) is available on Kindle for $.99 and $1.99. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

Scavenger-Red_Sands-Cover Scavenger-Blue_Dawn-Cover-FINAL

Subscribe to Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast on: iTunes | Stitcher Radio (Android users) | RSS | Website RSS

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

Connect with Adventures in SciFi Publishing

Subscribe to podcast on: iTunes | Stitcher Radio (Android users) | Podcast RSS | Website RSS


  1. You must be reading the wrong books then, I get weepy all the time. LOL. Probably a sign that I’m slightly unbalanced.

    • I guess I have a hollow heart. Books rarely get me emotional… :-S

      I read Wool and Shift a while ago. Loved Wool more than Shift. I’ll have to pick this one up now.

    • There was a book on your top ten list, Carl, I can’t remember the one, but it looked like it could do something like that. It’s easier for me to weep at my own writing… haha… but for some reason I don’t get that from reading. As I commented on Facebook, I think being a father has opened me up more.

  2. Good summary, Tim, and now I’ll surely add the volume to my list. It does sound intriguing.

    • Thanks, Chila. I look forward to hearing what you think if you get around to reading something. He has a shorter work, The Plagiarist, that I really liked. It’s a novelette. Wool and Sand both have episodes you can get to see if you like it, and Wool’s first one is perma free. If you’re looking for zombie research, I, Zombie was very good. Not the typical zombie story and very Hugh style.

  3. I wrote a soundtrack for Sand… Hugh seems to inspire people to do things…

Speak Your Mind


WordPress Anti-Spam by WP-SpamShield