Reboot the world: Silo/Wool 2 (spoilers)


This will include spoilers of the Wool/Silo series.  I can’t emphasize enough how much more fun and impactful the books are if you read them without knowing, so only read ahead if you’re fairly sure you won’t be reading them.


As discussed before, the setting of the book occurs in a silo mostly underground.  What’s left of mankind is living there for several generations with no memory of their history or world above… as far as they know, the silo is the world and all that has ever been. The top floor of the silo is on ground level, with a view to the apocalyptic wasteland around.  In the distance one can see destroyed ruins of what may have been a city.  The view is from a camera located outside.  There is a religious ritual called “cleaning” in a which a person doomed to death leaves the silo to clean the camera so as to allow those within a better view of the world outside.  For some unknown reason, everyone who leaves, even those promising to not clean, end up doing so.  They die soon after, their bodies littering the landscape in front of the camera, dozens if not hundreds now accumulated over the years.

The society in the Silo is described quite well.  Powered by natural resources acquired by digging down and a generator, growing their own food via UV light and extensive hydroponics, developing their own society.  The politics of the Silo is fascinating.  A Mayor is elected by the inhabitants, and a Sheriff appointed for day to day law and order.  But there is also an all-powerful IT department that we slowly find out is the real power in the Silo.  As far as the average citizen is concerned, the Mayor runs things.  But to those in the know, the IT department holds the power and they seem to know more about the Silo than they let on.  They also select their own successors, and are effectively not beholden to any form of democratic check.  On occasion, every 60-100 years or so, a rebellion occurs against the powers that be, an Uprising, and it is violently put down.  Little memory remains of the last one.

Juliette is a mechanic and main protagonist, who through a series of events comes to be Sheriff and eventually targeted by the Head of IT as troublesome.  The process through which she slowly learns the truth of the Silo is fascinating, as are the reveals to us the reader, and their not too subtle symbolism to our society.

For instance, the Silo is governed by “The Pact”, written in time immemorial to govern its inhabitants.  No one really remembers who wrote it (except of course, IT):

“The silo made less sense. It hadn’t been created by a God—it was probably designed by IT. This was a new theory, but she felt more and more sure of it. They controlled all the important parts. Cleaning was the highest law and the deepest religion, and both of these were intertwined and housed within its secretive walls. And then there was the spacing from Mechanical and the spread of the deputy stations—more clues. Not to mention the clauses in the Pact, which practically granted them immunity.”

Huh.  A real government behind the nominal government, that holds the real power for its own purposes.  Starting to sound familiar to the neoreactionaries out there?

More is revealed when the Head of IT is training his eventual successor.  A thick manual is revealed, titled THE ORDER, with precise instructions on what to do in case of virtually anything:

“You’ll want to familiarize yourself with this.” Bernard gestured toward a small desk which had a fragile-

looking wooden chair tucked up against it. There was a book on the desk unlike any Lukas had ever seen, or even heard of. It stood nearly as high as it was wide. Bernard patted the cover, then inspected his palm for dust. “I’ll give you the spare key, which you are to never remove from your neck. Come down when you can and read. Our history is in here, as well as every action you are to take in any emergency.”

Lukas approached the book, a lifetime’s worth of paper, and hinged open the cover. The contents were machine printed, the ink pitch-black. He flipped through a dozen pages of listed contents until he found the first

page of the body. Oddly, he recognized the opening lines immediately.

“It’s the Pact,” he said, looking up at Bernard. “I already know quite a bit of—”

“This is the pact,” Bernard told him, pinching the first half inch of the thick book. “The rest is the Order.”

He stepped back.

Lukas hesitated, digesting this, then reached forward and flopped the tome open near its middle.

• In the event of an earthquake:
• For casement cracking and outside seepage, turn to AIRLOCK BREACH (p.2180)
• For collapse of one or more levels, see SUPORT COLUMNS under SABOTAGE (p.751)
• For fire outbreak, see—

“Sabotage?” Lukas flipped a few pages and read something about air handling and asphyxiation. “Who came up with all this stuff?”

“People who have experienced many bad things.”

“Like . . . ?” He wasn’t sure if he was allowed to say this, but it felt like taboos weren’t allowed down there. “Like the people before the uprising?”

“The people before those people,” Bernard said. “The one people.”

Tantalizing, no?  Later, following a renewed rebellion, Lukas (the apprentice) has his training sped up.  He learns that the Order is meant to protect the Legacy, the history of the world before. The history the powers that created the Silo think best to conserve that is, for the future.

Lukas pinched a thick chunk of the Order and flopped it to the side. He skipped past all the recipes for averting silo disasters and checked out some of the more academic reference material toward the back. This stuff was even more frightening: chapters on group persuasion, on mind-control, on the effects of fear on upbringing, graphs and tables dealing with population growth—

He couldn’t take it. He adjusted his chair and watched Bernard for a while as the head of IT and acting Mayor scrolled through screen after screen of text, his head notching back and forth as he scanned the words there.

After a moment, Lukas dared to break the silence:

“Hey, Bernard?”


“Hey, why isn’t there anything in here about how all this came to be?”

Bernard’s office chair squealed as he swiveled it around to face Lukas. “I’m sorry, what?”

“The people who made all this, the people who wrote these books. Why isn’t there anything in the Order about them? Like how they built all this stuff in the first place.”

“Why would there be?” Bernard half turned back to his computer.

“So we would know. I dunno, like all the stuff in the other books—”

“I don’t want you reading those other books. Not yet.” Bernard pointed to the wooden desk. “Learn the Order first. If you can’t keep the silo together, the Legacy books are pulp. They’re as good as processed wood if no one’s around to read them.”

“Nobody can read them but the two of us if they stay locked up down here—”

“No one alive. Not today. But one day, there’ll be plenty of people who’ll read them. But only if you

study.” Bernard nodded toward the thick and dreadful book before turning back to his keyboard and reaching for his mouse.

Lukas sat there a while, staring at Bernard’s back, the knotted cord of his master keys sticking out of the top of his undershirt.

“I figure they must’ve known it was coming,” Lukas said, unable to stop himself from perseverating about it.

He had always wondered about these things, had suppressed them, had found his thrills in piecing together the distant stars that were so far away as to be immune to the hillside taboos. And now he lived in this vacuum, this hollow of the silo no one knew about where forbidden topics didn’t dare tread and he had access to a man who seemed to know the precious truth.

“You aren’t studying,” Bernard said. His head remained bent over his keyboard, but he seemed to know Lukas was watching him.

“But they had to’ve seen it coming, right?” Lukas lifted his chair and turned it around a little more. “I mean, to have built all these silos before it got so bad out there —”

Bernard turned his head to the side, his jaw clenching and unclenching. His hand fell away from the mouse and

came up to smooth his mustache. “These are the things you want to know? How it happened?”

“Yes.” Lukas nodded. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “I want to know.”

“Do you think it matters? What happened out there?” Bernard turned and looked up at the schematics on the wall, then at Lukas. “Why would it matter?”

“Because it happened. And it only happened one way, and it kills me not to know. I mean, they saw it coming, right? It would take years to build all—”

“Decades,” Bernard said.
“And then move all this stuff in, all the people—” “That took much less time.”

“So you know?”
Bernard nodded. “The information is stored here, but

not in any of the books. And you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter. That’s the past, and the past is not the same thing as our legacy. You’ll need to learn the difference.”

“The difference between our past and our legacy.”

“Hm.” Bernard nodded. He seemed to be waiting on something.

Lukas thought about the difference. For some reason, a conversation with Juliette sprang to mind, something she was forever telling him—

“I think I know,” he said.
“Oh?” Bernard pushed his glasses up his nose and

stared at him. “Tell me what you think you know.” “All our hope, the accomplishments of those before us,

what the world can be like, that’s our Legacy.”

Bernard’s lips broke into a smile. He waved his hand to continue.

“And the bad things that can’t be stopped, the mistakes that got us here, that’s the past.”

“And what does this difference mean? What do you think it means?”

“It means we can’t change what’s already happened, but we can have an impact on what happens next.”

Bernard clapped his small hands together. “Very good.”

“And this—” Lukas turned and rested one hand on the thick book. He continued, unbidden, “—the Order.

This is a roadmap for how to get through all the bad that’s piled up between our past and the future’s hope. This is the stuff we can prevent, that we can fix.”

The silo can best be thought of as a ship, only instead of taking people safely from one location to another it is taking them from one point in time to another, hundreds of years later, to survive a catastrophe that has afflicted the Earth.  For the greater good.  And to survive such an extended journey in a very unnatural and cramped environment, strict control has to be exercised for the greater good.  The illusion of elections and controls helps keep the population in line, but IT is there to manage the real problems.  And people having knowledge of all this would only lead to problems so it is better that they don’t, that a religion is developed to keep them in line, believing the Silo is the world and their day-to-day lives have meaning when they are really just seeds for the future.

The people know what they need to know, and those in charge know what they need to know.  And we eventually find out a big secret:  there is not just one Silo.  There are many.  Run by another silo, Silo 1, without an extend population.   A silo built solely for IT, for those controlling the other Silos.  The ultimate power.  And they must approve of the IT selections of every individual Silo.  And the only people who know this are IT.  For it would not benefit the people of the Silo to know of other Silos… it would only confuse them.

They communicate via a system of phones to the IT departments of each respective Silo.  And the initiation ceremony of Lukas is both terrifying and revealing:

“What is your primary duty to the silo?”

Bernard had prepped him on likely questions.

“To maintain the Order.”

Silence. No feedback, no sense if he was right or wrong.

“What do you protect above all?”

The voice was flat and yet powerfully serious. Dire and somehow calm. Lukas felt his mouth go dry.

“Life and Legacy,” he recited. But it felt wrong, this rote façade of knowledge. He wanted to go into detail, to let this voice, like a strong and sober father, understand that he knew why this was important. He wasn’t dumb. He had more to say than memorized facts —

“What does it take to protect these things we hold so dear?”

He paused.

“It takes sacrifice,” Lukas whispered. He thought of Juliette—and the calm demeanor he was projecting for Bernard nearly crumbled. There were some things he wasn’t sure about, things he didn’t understand. This was one of them. It felt like a lie, his answer. He wasn’t sure the sacrifice was worth it, the danger so great that they had to let people, good people, go to their—

If anything is worth defending, worth the sacrifice, it is human civilization.  The future.  But the next reveal is jaw-dropping:

“You are next in line for the control and operation of silo eighteen,” the voice intoned.

“Thank you sir.”

Lukas reached for the headphones, was preparing to take them off and hand them to Bernard in case he needed to say something, to hear that it was official.

“Do you know the worst part of my job?” the hollow voice asked.

Lukas dropped his hands.

“What’s that, sir?”

“Standing here, looking at a silo on this map, and drawing a red cross through it. Can you imagine what that feels like?”

Lukas shook his head. “I can’t, sir.”

“It feels like a parent losing thousands of children, all at once.”

A pause.
“You will have to be cruel to your children to not lose them.”

Lukas thought of his father.


“Welcome to Operation Fifty of the World Order, Lukas Kyle. Now, if you have a question or two, I have the time to answer, but briefly.”

Lukas wanted to say that he had no questions; he wanted to get off the line; he wanted to call and speak with Juliette, to feel a puff of sanity breathed into this crazy and suffocating room. But he remembered what Bernard had taught him about admitting ignorance, how this was the key to knowledge.

“Just one, sir. And I’ve been told it isn’t important, and I understand why that’s true, but I believe it will make my job here easier if I know.”

He paused for a response, but the voice seemed to be waiting for him to get to the question.

Lukas cleared his throat. “Is there—?” He pinched the mic and moved it closer to his lips, glanced at Bernard. “How did this all begin?”

He wasn’t sure—it could have been a fan on the server whirring to life—but he thought he heard the man with the deep voice sigh.

“How badly do you wish to know?”

Lukas feared answering this question honestly. “It isn’t crucial,” he said, “but I would appreciate a sense of what we’re accomplishing, what we survived. It feels like it gives me—gives us a purpose, you know?”

“The reason is the purpose,” the man said cryptically. “Before I tell you, I’d like to hear what you think.”

Lukas swallowed. “What I think?”
“Everyone has ideas. Are you suggesting you don’t?” A hint of humor could be heard in that hollow voice.

“I think it was something we saw coming,” Lukas said. He watched Bernard, who frowned and looked away.

“That’s one possibility.”

Bernard removed his glasses and began wiping them on the sleeve of his undershirt, his eyes at his feet.

“Consider this—” The deep voice paused. “What if I told you that there were only fifty silos in all the world, and that here we are in this infinitely small corner of it.”

Lukas thought about this. It felt like another test.

“I would say that we were the only ones—” He almost said that they were the only ones with the resources, but

he’d seen enough in the Legacy to know this wasn’t true. Many parts of the world had buildings rising above their hills. Many more could have been prepared. “I’d say we were the only ones whoknew,” Lukas suggested.

“Very good. And why might that be?”

He hated this. He didn’t want to puzzle it out, he just wanted to be told.

And then, like a cable splicing together, like electricity zipping through connections for the very first time, the truth hit him.

“It’s because—” He tried to make sense of this answer in his head, tried to imagine that such an idea could possibly verge on truth.

“It’s not because we knew,” Lukas said, sucking in a gasp of air. “It’s because we did it.”

“Yes,” the voice said. “And now you know.”

They did it.  They wiped out the world. All of it.  All of human civilization has been wiped out other than 50 Silos holding 250k-500k people total.  An ark for the future.  And the people behind the project, World Order Operation Fifty (W O O L) did it.  They pushed the button.  They hit the reboot.  The most horrific act of genocide in the history of mankind.  What could possibly justify this?  The deaths of over 7 billion people.   And for what purpose?


The reset button: Wool/Silo series

aka World Order Operation Fifty.

The prophet has different plans for taking out the USG and Cathedral.  Some involve game changing technological/sociological advances like secession/cryptography/seasteading.  Others have to do with setting up a rival to the Cathedral that would take over via increased perceived legitimacy.

My favorites though are the ones involving outright taking over of power and hitting the reset button.  These usually take the outright seizing of sovereign power according to some program.  There is historical precedent which is both criticized for being unrealistic and yet viewed as possible with modifications (some Party attaining victory with exclusive goal of completely reorganizing govt as we know it along reactionary lines, whether absolute monarchy or neocameralism).

And of course, the most straightforward and time tested one of all:  the military coup.  The problem with the military coup is that while it is possible quite easily if enough of the upper echelons of the military agree to it, the conditions for that to happen require the almost total loss of civilization first.  And the more loyal and used to civilian leadership the armed forces are, the worst said conditions have to be before they step in.  The Anglo-Saxon world such as it is is not Brazil or even France.  Imagining how bad the economy/social breakdown would have to be before they decide to say enough is a frightening thought experiment indeed.

There is something to post-apocalyptic fiction that naturally makes it beholden to reactionaries.  And so your author was quite pleasantly surprised indeed to come across the Silo series.

Wool begins the series.  The basic gist is that for some unknown reason all that remains of our species lives within a silo underground.  Why?  What happened?  Why can no on remember?  You know what, just read the following nine pages excerpt free online.

Have you read it?

Good stuff, right?  Gripping?  How bleak an ending was that?  While not incredibly original, the execution is quite flawless for those 9 pages and for most of the first book.  The mystery of what happened, who knows/who doesn’t, and above all WHY.

The first two books, Wool and Shift, are very good.  Wool sets the stage and the world, and Shift explains what happened and how we got there. Sadly, the conclusion, Dust, left much to be desired of, sinking to some basic cliches (in particular a very stupid shoehorned religious angle).  But the first two are gripping page turners of a dark world.  And the gradual revelation of what happened and why is as NRx as any I have read.

I will in short order write a separate post discussing it in more detail, but it will be filled with spoilers.  My recommendation?  Buy (or just dl the books online, the author is on the record saying he’s ok with this) the books and enjoy the mystery and reveal for yourselves.  And then come back to discuss the implications.

Political Officer

Someone I know worked for a number of years at one of the top investment banks in the world.  This was pre-2008.  He had a value seat on a trading floor under one of the top producers of that firm; basically one of the top traders on Wall Street.  On said trading desk and on the sales desk linked to it were several very high ranking members of the bank, some of whom would go on to senior management positions.

To the extent finance is an army, this was the special forces.  The allocation of billions of USD (and other currencies) worth of capital was determined by the choices made by those individuals. Some economic systems have bureaucrats and well, it usually doesn’t pan out so well.  Capitalism, while certainly not perfect, has these voracious workaholics who ruthlessly chase profit (economic efficiency) like prepubescent males after porn

However, said efficient operators are not left to play their games alone.  Upon rewatching for the umpteenth time the glory that is Sean Connery’s accent in a certain movie, I realized we have a very clear parallel here.  The exact same function played by the political officers in the Soviet Army is that played by HR in corporate america.  They supervise, monitor, chastise, admonish, control, and punish the economic operators who manage the wealth on which the power of the West relies while maintaining a stricter ideological straightjacket than a radical communist could dream of.  Since wealth can lead to political power, Inner Party members must be strictly monitored for deviant thinking.  

And you’d be surprised how spending 12 hours a day 5-6 days a week strictly monitoring what you say/write easily becomes internalized.  This of course after the cursory k-12 years of education, 4 years at an Ivy, and often an MBA/JD/etc.  One’s social circles commonly involves true believers, and a simple comment/joke/email out of line can ruin a career.  Wearing a PC mask all day, and sometimes all night, one finds one’s mask becomes one’s face.

Which brings us to the personal connection at the belly of the beast.  Working on an international desk, our acquaintance witnessed the following spectacle:  One of the top traders at the firm laughed at a joke over the speaker by a colleague abroad, involving the spanish word for gay/faggot.  In that language and culture they have not yet reached the level of enlightenment the anglo world has, but give them time.  Unfortunately for our Master of the Universe a member of the new aristocracy took umbrage at said outrage and brought the issue to the attention of the political commissars.

And thus the spectacle occurred of a high ranking member of the econ elite having to kowtow to an infected aristocrat for violating the religious mores of society.  Only after a public apology/humiliation in front of the high priest was our Paul Allen spared the loss of job, status and prestige.  Never was a more clear example made of power over money.  

The system worked.  And all who witnessed it loved Big Brother a little more.

Humans need not apply

“First they came for the horses, and I did not speak out- 
because I was not a horse.”  – Skynet wins poetry contest on subject of humans in 100 years (closest contender)

Say what you will about progs, but they occasionally really “get it.”  Their proposed solutions of course are hilarious (none in that video as pointing to a problem is far less divisive than attempting to solve it).  

At some point though we as a society (or rather, those who run it) will have to make a decision with regards to what to do with those who are superfluous.  A few come to mind, undoubtedly less entertaining than watching them burn down their own neighborhoods, but probably more efficient.  Maybe the owners of capital can truly come into their own (excellent read and a subject for another day):

“Rather graciously because it delights them and puts them into good spirits; for those who are cruel enjoy the highest gratification of the feeling of power.”

Some form of sterilization of the lower orders is long overdue.  Perhaps a guaranteed life income of 1k USD a month in exchange for permanent sterilization at age 18.  Or 16 the way things are headed.  The type of person willing to take that deal is probably the type you want taking it.

Of course, the “what to do” is trivial relative to the “how to get it done.”  One thing is for certain:  that which cannot go on forever… will not.

Regardless, this is at best a temporary solution for the lower orders.  As automation climbs the job ladders, those now enacting the solution may soon find themselves being enacted upon.  And, whether voluntary or not, let us not forget the fate of the Solarians.