Sand Omnibus - Hugh Howey

Books like this are the reason why I try to take books out of the library first before actually buying a copy, because had I bought myself a copy of this I would've tried returning it less than a quarter of the way in.

This book is a mess, to sum up it quickly. The intrigue it promises from the summary is so mangled by poor writing that it leaves little room for patience to figure it all out. And figure it out I tried.

In the beginning we're introduced to Palm and Hap and given a general sense of the world we will find ourselves in - a world totally covered by sand. For some reason the people of this world have a term called "sand divers" who, quite literally, dive under the sand. Sounds promising enough. But this term is never fully unraveled and by the end I'm still left wondering just what exactly is it about being a sand diver that is so prestigious and why they do it in the first place, beside the fact that they can say they're a sand diver. Once this term was so vaguely established it wasn't surprising that the rest of the book continued in the same spirit. There's a lost city of Danvar located somewhere below the desert that people look for, which is what Palmer has become involved in, much to his peril. Why this city is so important I'm not sure either. You get your standard explanation that it has minerals and other resources that can be scavenged, but besides that you're left with the need to go along with the premise. And all of these things accumulate: the terror-like group that ends up attacking Shantytown, the people that are living somewhere there on the other side, even the explanation of just WHY the whole world (or at least this particular part of it - the book doesn't specify how the situation applies) is covered in sand. The world building is poor and I struggle to think of another book that did this as poorly.

Adding to this was the conundrum with the characters, the sheer number of them all fighting for a speck of the reader's attention yet all falling flat and melting into the equally-lifeless background of the unnamed desert world. The author tried to give the characters some flesh, I'll give him that, but the end result was really not good. Each had some kind of attribute that can be pinned to them - such as Vic being the angry older sister that softens up a bit at the end and vows to bring change - and that's about it. Cookie cut-outs, each of them. There was nothing that allowed for any sort of connection to form, nothing memorable or human about them that creates an appealing protagonist.

And all of this fit into the main problem: the plot. About half way through the book I had one guess as to what the plot was, but then it took a sharp turn and went in a totally different direction that wasn't much better. How was this split into five separate books? Each of the five parts in this book was so short and limited that to separate them is a disaster - it's like ripping out a tiny piece of canvas from a Monet and making someone tell you what the painting is and what the artist was trying to say/show with it. The plot is incredibly forced and dry with nothing to reinforce it.

So far this book sets the bar for disappointing reads of the year. There truly have been few books that have bored me as much as this one and did so without even having the basics, such as good characters, in place. Shame.