Sand Omnibus, By Hugh Howey


Howey, H. (2014). Sand omnibus. Broad Reach Publishing.

Paperback $17.95, Kindle $5.99, 336 pages

ISBN: 978-1494904487

Author’s Website and Interviews:


Online Reviews:

Annotation: Palmer sat alone amongst the ruins of Danvar, hopelessly waiting for the traitor to return and rescue from him from the sand’s relentless grip.  

Summary (Warning Spoilers): Palmer, a young but skilled sand diver, sets out with his friend Hap to aid Brock and his men in the recovery of buried artifacts. The two men are recruited to dive to depths of over 300 feet, a depth no diver other than Palmer’s sister Vic has survived before. Both men descend into the sand, utilizing sand altering dive suits which allow them to manipulate the sand making it easier to dive. As they reach the legendary city of Danvar, both men are running low on air and seek refuge in one of the city’s sand scrapers. Hap suddenly turns on Palmer by locking him in a room and stealing his last remaining air tank. As Palmer tries to push his way out, Hap ensures him that he will return to rescue him, a lie which realizes his friend’s betrayal. It is clear to Palmer that Hap intends to claim the discovery of the lost city for himself and has no intention of returning. However, when Hap reaches the surface, Brock and his men are waiting with sinister intent. Brock steals Hap’s visor which stored all of the coordinates for the city’s location and pushes him back down the shaft, killing Hap in the process. While Palmer is trapped, he stumbles upon another survivor who had been trapped down there for weeks. This survivor however, had turned to cannibalism, living off the remains of his fallen dive partner. A struggle ensues and Palmer is forced to kill the man in self-defense. Although distraught at taking another life, he discovers the man had an air tank which is almost half empty. Palmer decides to take a chance on escaping and uses the air tank to return to the surface. As he begins to ascend he stumbles upon the body of Hap, mangled and mutilated, obvious signs that his death was no accident. Once he returns, he realizes that Brock and his men have moved camp and that he is no longer safe. He sets out to find home unaware that his sister Vic with the help of her brothers Conner and Rob are searching for him in hopes of saving him and the discovery of Danvar.

Evaluation: This book got off to a slow start for me but really picked up when Palmer and Hap descended into the sand in search of Danvar. I enjoyed the fact that this was a dystopian novel and focused on a futuristic city buried by sand and where the sand has become the oppressor. Howey’s writing is fantastic, descriptive, and the characters are well developed. After the first few chapters the story really picks up the pace and you are immediately introduced to Palmer’s brothers Connor and Rob, his sister Vic, and his mother Rose, a woman who has been forced to turn to prostitution in her husband’s absence. Although each character tells the story from their own point of view, they are interconnected and build upon one another. Howey is able to transport the reader to this futuristic world and take them on dives right along with Palmer and Vic. It was a rather quick read for me which left me with more questions than answers which is always a sign of a great thought provoking book. I will definitely be reading this one again in hopes of discovering more to Palmer’s father’s disappearance and the child who appeared out of No Man’s Land claiming to be his daughter.

Genre: Science Fiction (Dystopian)

Appeal Factors: A dystopian novel set in a futuristic city buried by sand. The novel is thought provoking and the writing is descriptive. Does not mince words and foul language is used throughout which I found added to the realness of the characters. Plot-driven and compelling.

Read-alike Titles and Authors:

The Atlantis Plague by A. G. Riddle

The Martian by Andy Weir

Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather


This book has not won any awards.

Booktalk Ideas:

  •  Read the scene where Hap locks Palmer in the room and steals his air tank. Leave the reader wanting more.
  •  Ask questions that allow the audience to step into the shoes of Rose, Palmer, Hap, or Vic. Does this new perspective garner empathy, understanding, forgiveness?
  •  Ask the audience question the morals and motives of the characters. What if Hap had survived? What is Palmer had pushed the door open a few seconds earlier and retrieved his air tank? What if Palmer’s dad had never left?

Book Discussion Questions:

1. Why did Palmer’s dad leave his family all those years ago? How did he end up in No Man’s Land without a way of escaping?

2. Is Violet really their half-sister? How was she able to escape and survive the journey out of No Man’s Land when no one else has ever survived? Why does Rose show such affection towards her after she is found and brought to the bar?

3. What is the significance of Connor and Rob taking the family tent out each year on the anniversary of their father’s disappearance?

4. Do you think Hap had any intention of returning to rescue Palmer before he was killed? Did you get the sense early on that this dive for Brock could be one of their last?

5. How would you compare Vic’s character to that of her mother’s? Do you think her mother was justified in her actions of abandoning the family and buying the bar? What reasoning does she give to her children?

6. Where did all of the sand come from and what happened to cities like Danvar? Do the use of bombs factor into this? What exactly is No Man’s Land and what do you think it says about mankind?

I was initially drawn the cover and the fact that it was a dystopian book. I have read a lot of YA dystopian fiction and was looking for one aimed at adults. I was immediately hooked after reading a brief synopsis on and had to know more about a city of sand that was humanity’s undoing. Also, I had heard great things about Wool by Hugh Howey and knew he was an author that I had to check out.