Friday, June 20, 2014
Sand Omnibus by Hugh Howey
If you like: diving * family * betrayal
In Sand, people live in a desert world where they must dive deep into the sand in order to scavenge relics of the prior world buried stories below. The landscape bears no resemblance to our modern world at the surface. Only by dangerously diving below are they able to locate our present day buildings and find the useful treasures buried within. Life is hard in a world where all efforts are spent scavenging and digging out of the ever increasing piles of windblown sand. Living is a day-by-day, moment-by-moment chore. We are accustomed to a world filled with vast resources that can be used to sustain our life. In Sand, these are long gone. Just obtaining the water necessary for life is a painstaking task. In spite of this, there are some marvels that don’t exist in our world. Sand diving and sand manipulation are the type of magical ability we can only dream of currently. The ability to manipulate sand takes a bit of guts, intense focus, and intense physical prowess. Only the lucky few posses enough of all three to find the vast world of treasures deep below the surface.
Sand diving is similar to water diving in many ways. Without bringing enough air, you will never survive. Also, the deeper you travel, the more pressure surrounds you, making it hard to move, breathe, and survive at deeper depths. Without trustworthy companions, diving in either case is dangerous. It is all to easy to be betrayed by those around you. They could steal your air, or sever your suit, leaving you with no option but painful death. On the other hand, both skills are aided by companionship. Explore deep under the depths with someone up top watching out for you leaves you able to focus all of your attention on the fascinating world that exists for you and you alone. Diving is an almost meditative process, requiring both full attention and a semi-meditative state allowing the world to flow around you without stress. They are not entirely the same. Water driving allows you to experience a world teeming with innumerable forms of life. Sand diving brings you to a world that used to be filled with life, and is now entirely abandoned. Both provide vast opportunities for exploration, but one explores what is, and the other what was.
The desperate world of Sand is exhausting and depressing, but still provides a sliver of hope. People still carry on traditions, still find love. In spite of their miserable existence, they still find a way to go on. Becoming a diver is asking to the continued existence of the American Dream. Diving beneath the sand allows each diver to believe that they will be the one to find salvation for their people: find a new treasure-filled city, find a deep well, find the thing that will allow their family to escape poverty. For those rejected from the guild, they must spend their lives moving sand, or doing some other sort of physical labor. Though these jobs are necessary, they do not provide the liberation or freedom of diving beneath the sand. There is no quiet solitude in this work. For these people, the dream of a future not filled with sand, but teeming with life. They seek to find a way out of the repetition of their life, and rally around the call of revolution. They are not alone, though. Many sand divers have loved ones in their position and seek to rattle the status quo and provide greater opportunities for everyone to thrive, instead of the few who hold all the resources. Even with their shared desire to make the world something greater, no one can resist the lure of a treasure hunt. When the lost city of Danvar is rumored to be discovered, everyone who is able flees their life in search of riches and wealth. Dreaming of a better world for everyone only goes so far. Sometimes, people must seek a better life for themselves before they can seek a better life for everyone. And so, even in the worst of times, people will always believe that this will be the time their life turns around, their big break. And sometimes, it is.
If you know you can find what you’ve been looking for, read Sand.
Howey, Hugh. Sand Omnibus. Broad Reach Publishing, 2014. Kindle Edition.