Hugh Howey’s ‘Beacon 23’: Summary & Ending Explained (All 5 Books) 

Hugh Howeys Beacon 23 Summary Ending Explained All 5 Books
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Hugh Howey’s name became mainstream with a successful adaptation of his notable post-apocalyptic science fiction series under the name ‘Silo.’ Now, another one of Howey’s series is being picked up for adaptation, ‘Beacon 23.’ The show is set to be released on MGM+ on November 12

‘Beacon 23’ is actually a collection of 5 short stories. The story is set in the distant future and revolves around a man who is responsible for maintaining a beacon in deep space. The beacon serves as a navigational aid for spaceships traveling through a dangerous and uncharted region of space. It explores everything from isolation to survival and what kind of impact it leaves on our psyche as a whole. Now, let’s see what the books are about in more detail. 

Editor’s Note: This post contains massive spoilers for the upcoming show ‘Beacon 23’ and the source material, read at your own risk.

1. ‘Beacon 23: Part 1 – Little Noises’ Summary & Ending Explained 

‘Beacon 23’ takes place in the distant future

Before we go into explaining what the plot is about, we need to explain the setting. In the distant future, NASA created the so-called GWB beacons or Gravity Wave Broadcasters that make interstellar travel far safer than it would be under normal circumstances. Those beacons that emit the waves are similar to what Lighthouses were back on Earth. 

Each beacon has one man (or a woman) assigned to it that mans it practically like a lighthouse keeper, and those people usually spend the majority of time in complete isolation, being stationed at the edge of the observable universe. 

One such “lighthouse” keeper is the protagonist of the first story. Before our unnamed beacon operator got stationed at the beacon, he served in “The War” and got his guts clawed out by something called “The Lord.”

The unnamed beacon operator is supposed to monitor the GWB and make sure that the transit flows smoothly. He is in constant contact with NASA, but communication is mostly limited to messages related to the state of GWB.

The unnamed beacon operator is highly trained, but most of his job is done by computers. He is there just in case anything goes wrong. Considering that he spends much of the time in complete silence and isolation, he starts to get annoyed by little things and fascinated by even smaller things. For example, the beacon operator is frustrated with little sounds of machinery going, bolts and nuts clinking, wires wheezing, and things like that.

He also develops a fascination with a photo of a single lighthouse keeper that depicts a massive wave crashing into the lighthouse walls while the lighthouse keeper poses for the photo in defiance. He sends the research request to NASA to figure out the backstory of the photo, and his request is granted. The results come a few weeks later, as well as some “of-the-grid” cargo that gets delivered to him without NASA knowing about it. 

It turns out that the lighthouse keeper wasn’t a hero after all, at least not the one of the fearless kind. Soon after that photo was taken, he was s***** his pants in fear.

Something is wrong with GWB

The unnamed beacon operator really really hates all the noises that are created as a result of the lighthouse working, but if there is one thing that he hates and fears even more, it is the absence of them. If the noises stop, it means that the GWB beacon is no longer functioning and that all the ships in the vicinity scheduled for traffic are in grave danger of hitting space debris. And this is exactly what happened; the unnamed beacon operator knows that two ships are scheduled for transit: one cargo ship with four men and two women on board and a space cruiser with 5000 people on board.

The beacon operator tries the first thing that comes to his mind. He disables the GWB beacon and tries to restart it. He sends a message to NASA, but they are clearly not taking him seriously enough. The time until the first cargo ships come near the beacon is growing near, and he knows he has lives at stake.

He injures himself as he is working quickly. The message comes from NASA, which states that nothing is wrong with the beacon. There is no time left, and the beacon operator looks outside as the first ship that was scheduled for transit is destroyed, only space debris left, after it collided with a meteor the size of Manhattan. Eight people died in the incident.

Who are “The Wreckers?”

The beacon operator remembers something he read about on the wiki about one ancient profession that was closely tied to the lightkeepers, the Wreckers. Desperate men who earned their living by crashing ships and selling cargo that washed ashore. A few lost lives were inconsequential when you consider feeding your family.

The beacon operator thinks about the possible causes that might have caused the GWB to malfunction. The odds are incredibly small that something like this happens at random. He starts suspecting sabotage from the inside. He recalls that delivery he had a few weeks ago, the unsanctioned one that NASA knew nothing about. It’s possible that NASA is not aware of the grave danger because some “bug” is sending the wrong readings.

He sends another panicked message to NASA, telling them the beacon was infiltrated from the inside and that it’s his fault. He tells them to check the Wreckers while he desperately tries one more thing.

The cruiser with 5,000 people on board is about to pass and most likely be destroyed by the floating rocks and space debris. He tries to short the circuitry on the GWB in order to force it to “safely heal” and begs that the strange piece of infiltrating machinery won’t heal with it as well. He starts yanking wires and shorts the machinery. The GWB starts getting warm to the touch. It seems his solution worked.

He starts sobbing as catastrophe is averted and 5,000 lives have been saved. We learn that our unnamed beacon operator has 18 more months to go through before he returns to Earth.

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2. ‘Beacon 23: Part 2 – Pet Rock’ Summary & Ending Explained 

NASA didn’t care about what happened to the cargo ship

It’s been eight days since the accident with the GWB, and our unnamed beacon operator was put in quarantine with all unmarked shipments banned from the ship altogether. The cause of the accident is clear, and despite eight people losing their lives, the only thing that NASA was truly disappointed in was the fact that no footage of the cargo ship’s collision with the asteroid exists.

The beacon operator returned more or less to his regular duties, but the incident left deep trauma. He sleeps in his life support suit, scared of what might happen if some piece of space debris crashes into the beacon.

Things have been fine for the last week, and the sense of isolation somewhat lessened due to the presence of news ships that wanted to get a glimpse of the accident. The major catastrophe was diverted, but the beacon operator’s personal hell had only just started. The good thing is that video surveillance managed to get a glimpse of the plates and signs of the ships that supposedly caused the incident with GWB.

His usual day was interrupted by a NASA call. Their instruments detected what appeared to be a life signature some miles away from his location. Most of the time, this is a false flag, but he is still required to do a spacewalk just to check. It instantly crossed his mind that there might be survivors from the cargo ship incidents who managed to survive in their escape pods.

The beacon operator put on his suit and ventured outside, he was struggling to make sense of the things. He was instantly surrounded by the leftover cargo that hadn’t been pillaged by the space wreckers or otherwise deemed too important to be left just floating in space.

The radar that he had on himself manifested a single red beep on his screen, the signal both getting stronger and weaker as he was coming closer. He sifted through various boxes in zero-g. Getting hit with toilet seats and various boxes is no fun.

He knew as soon as he saw the box that he was looking at the right thing. He picked up the box that seemed to be the source of life in his hands. It was a wooden ornate box, a fancy one. It was supposed to be shipped to Professor Bockman in Oxford.

He picked up the box and brought it back to the beacon. He first had to make sure that it wasn’t contained with some dangerous and unknown lifeforms, so he held his breath.

Who is Rocky the Orvid?

As soon as he removed his helmet and opened the box, he found a small rock within it, and the rock talked back, chastising him for not saving it sooner. The beacon operator was confused, but considering that at this point, NASA had discovered multiple alien lifeforms, it wasn’t far-fetched.

The rock revealed that it was sentient and quite rude at that, with a British accent. It asked to be placed in the water. Apparently, the rock belonged to the species called “Orvids” hailing from planet Orvo. The planet has next to nothing tectonic activity and is mostly covered in water. Orvids mostly gather in shallow pools near what little land it has. They survived on radioactive heat that the planet’s core produces.

The beacon operator decided to name the rock Rocky. He also learned that Rocky is highly educated and was working as an assistant for an Oxford professor in the scientific field of philosophy.

What happened to Beacon operator in the past?

Rocky had quite an aptitude for dialogue, and we finally found out what happened to the beacon operator and how he ended up so far away in a destitute corner of the space.

He was a trained army pilot taking part in the Void War when his battalion breached the so-called “swarm” on some irrelevant backwater planet. They were met with resistance, and most of his comrades died in the attack. He was “unlucky” enough to survive, and after the general came to visit him in the hospital, he asked what the beacon operator truly wanted, and he answered, “to be alone.”

He got sent to Beacon 23, in the middle of nowhere. His wish granted, he consoled himself with the fact that only the best pilots end up with NASA. After telling Rocky his life story, the beacon operator started playing with Rocky’s wooden box. He noticed that the wood it was made out of smelled fresh and green, and it reminded him of the forests back home.

Rocky was never real; he was an illusion manifested from isolation

This is when the illusion came apart. The beacon operator realized that Rocky was no more than a simple rock that killed this termite-infested piece of wood as soon as it struck it. Rocky wasn’t real. It was just his mind playing tricks on him. The thing that gave away the signatures of life in space wasn’t Rocky the Orvid. It was a mere piece of wood.

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3. ‘Beacon 23: Part 3 – The Bounty’ Summary & Ending Explained 

The bounty hunters appeared

It’s been 18 days since the incident, and the beacon operator is back to his routine for the most part. There was a small issue with his gravity module that resulted in an accident that left his arm hurt, and this is where we find out that he actually has nowhere to return to, even if he does get sent back home relieved from his duties as an operator.

His monotonous routine is interrupted by an upcoming ship that requests to dock; the pilot appears to be a bounty hunter looking for a runaway criminal under the name Mitch O’Shea. He has a federal warrant, and the beacon operator has to give him access. Reluctantly, the ship starts docking, and while Mitch casually looks around with his cat-like pet Warthen, another bounty ship appears and requests to dock as well.

The new bounty hunter is an Eastern European under the name Vlad Bostokov, who speaks poor English. It seems that Mitch and Vlad know each other, and there is a certain amount of animosity between them. The argument between Mitch and Vlad is interrupted by the third bounty ship. The third and the last bounty hunter is an unnamed woman dressed all in black from head to toe. She is silent, but like the previous two bounty hunters, she has a warrant as well, and all of them are looking for the same female fugitive and highly suspect that she is hiding somewhere at the edge of the Universe.

All three bounty hunters want a headstart at searching the ship, and Mitch even offers a bribe. The beacon operator pockets it, and the three bounty hunters return to their respective ships while the beacon operator starts transmitting the scans of his ship and the immediate area.

Who is Scarlett & how is she connected to beacon operator’s past?

Just when he returns to his quarters, there is a woman in the pilot’s seat. She is holding a blaster pointed in the direction of the beacon operator, but he recognizes her. Her name is Scarlett, and not only is she apparently a hardened criminal whom three bounty hunters are looking for, but she is also someone who he was previously romantically linked with and someone who served with him in the same platoon shortly.

Scarlett is walking paranoia and a walking rebel. She doesn’t explain what she did to acquire a 50 million bounty, but she does comment about the fact that Beacon operator now works for NASA.

Beacon operator started internally groaning, being unable to make up his mind whether he hated her or liked her; he settled on the fact that he used to love her.

Scarlett has an outrageous proposition for him, “to end the war,” and she gives him a book that he used to read while he was in the army. The book’s name is “Salaman’s Battle” a part of “Frontier Saga” written by T.W. Rudolf.

What really happened on Yata…

Apparently, the book was extremely popular with the soldiers fighting in the Void War against the Ryph (the enemy aliens living in hives), and the beacon operator read one book so many times that it practically fell apart. Scarlett told Beacon operator that the book wasn’t based on anything human; in fact, the book that they all adored was written by the Ryph themselves.

Scarlett revealed that Rudolf discovered the Ryph books and admired them so much that he decided to replicate them, only switching sides and names to make them seem appropriate for our soldiers. It was all a giant ruse, and the beacon operator realizes that humans are to the Ryphs as much of invaders and monsters as Ryphs are to humans and that he has been observing war from only one side, his side, the familiar side, while the aliens had altogether a different perspective on it that was as much of a heroic side that human was.

Scarlett then forces the beacon operator to tell her what actually happened that day when he was injured, and The Beacon operator starts retelling the incident on the planet called Yata that we already know about.

His platoon was pushing further into the Hive, and they got surrounded. He was the only one who survived but was gravely injured in the stomach by Ryph Lord. Only it didn’t exactly happen that way. The beacon operator had a nuclear bomb detonator in his hand, and he was supposed to nuke the hive, but he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t kill the innocent Ryph children. He couldn’t wipe out the hive, and this is when he was attacked by Ryph Lord, and his insides were practically pulled from him.

What happened to Scarlett?

Scarlett, for some reason, knew about it. Just as the beacon operator retold the story, the computer gave him the notification that the transfer of the ship’s scans was completed. Scarlett got visibly upset since she used Mitch’s ship to reach Beacon 23. Sending the can of Mitch’s ship to Mitch would reveal how exactly she got here in the first place.

Scarlett and the beacon operator realize that they have very little time until Mitch reaches them, and just like that, the beacon operator is ready to become a criminal and run away from his duties as the beacon operator.

He started gathering supplies to run away with Scarlet, but Mitch reached their quarters fairly soon, and the fight ensued. All that the beacon operator could do at this moment was to turn off gravity, knowing that Mitch was most likely not familiar with zero-g environments. Mitch started vomiting in the air as all of his organs were pushed inside his abdominal cavity.

Mitch started moving toward his own docked ship, which had artificial gravity. The beacon operator attempted to stop him, and a brief fight ensued within the ship. Mitch threw a grenade in the beacon operator’s direction, but the grenade blew up the hallway and took Mitch’s life in a second. His mangled remains are on the floor.

Scarlett descended, and the beacon operator was just about to kiss her and embrace her when her eyes went dull, and her body went limp. Out of nowhere, the third female bounty hunter appeared and shot Scarlett in the head, point blank, killing her instantly.

Without a word, the bounty hunter dragged Scarlett’s corpse into her ship and disappeared without arresting the beacon operator. The only thing that was left out of all three bounty hunters and Scarlett was Mitch’s pet, Warthen Cricket, who now needed a new home.

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4. ‘Beacon 23: Part 4 – Company’ Summary & Ending Explained 

Beacon 1592 comes into orbit

Following the incidents with the cargo ship and the bounty hunters, Beacon 23 got a new company. NASA explained that due to the severity of the incidents that took place, one more beacon was about to be placed in the vicinity. The beacon operator was frustrated due to the lack of information about it, but kept focusing on the light flickering in the distance. The neighboring beacon was signed as Beacon 1529, and he knew next to nothing about its inhabitants.

The operator adopted Mitch’s warthen Cricket, and the alien animal, a crossbreed between a wild cat and a labrador, was always at his side; the alien animal seemed to pick up on human emotions, which made it an empath. He appreciated the company but knew that NASA would eventually figure out that he was using 50% more supplies and breathing out 50% more CO2.

In any case, life was normal until the Beacon 1529 started sending out distress signals. The SOS light flickered in and out, and the beacon operator decided to set out in a lifeboat to examine the incident.

Beacon 1529 was stationed just a mere few clicks away, and it didn’t take him long to reach it. Once he did, he was greeted by nothing out of the ordinary. The beacon seemed to function fine enough, better than his own, and nothing inside the beacon gave signs that something had terribly gone wrong.

Who is Claire?

Exploring Beacon 1529, he finally found what appeared to be a dead boy, a single pale leg, the rest of the body hidden away. He pulled the leg, and the body that was joined with it shrikered in alarm. The beacon operator explained that he was here just to examine the source of the distress call.

Beacon 1529’s operator was a female named Claire, and she wasn’t really an operator. She was a tuner, making sure that her Beacon was operating as meticulously as possible. She asked for the beacon operator’s name, and he revealed that he was called “Digger” while he was in the army, so I’m going to refer to him as such in the rest of this post.

Digger was shocked to finally have company, and when it was his time to return to his beacon, he was somewhat heartbroken to leave the only normal company he had in recent times (unless you could on the bounty hunters and Scarlett.)

When he returned to his beacon, Digger took a shower, cut his hair, and trimmed his bear, making an effort into his looks for the first time in who knows how long. He dreamt about his old company, the Bravo company, that night and all the friends he had lost in combat.

He described Bravo company as B-listers you send into the fray when you are unsure of which way the battle will go or how to proceed with your plan. His restless sleep was interrupted by a lifeboat docking at his beacon.

At first, he wondered who was visiting him, but when he figured it was Claire, he was more than happy to answer the call. The two hung out for a while, and Claire even revealed that she was serving in the army at one point as well. She revealed that she was there that day or Yata when Digger failed to blow up the Ryph hive with a nuke. Digger was too scared to reveal the truth about his own identity.

Claire also asked him whether he had something he wanted fixed since she was leaving in a few days, returning back to Earth. Hearing this, Digger made a mental note not to get to attached to her, but he failed.

Claire visited him once again, and the two got into a fight, with Claire accusing him of refusing to feel emotions and get connected to another human being. This is when Digger noticed that Claire also had plenty of scars marring her body. Instead of arguing with her, he collapsed into her arms and started weeping, and she started weeping as well.

The two connected on an emotional level, both being aware of the fact that isolation is hell. They didn’t have sex but gained something more valuable: a moment of absolute emotional transparency.

Digger was still mortified, dreading the moment she left, but at least he managed to score a kiss before she disappeared forever.

Claire is here to stay

The day that Claire was supposed to leave came; the NASA supply delivery guy was supposed to drop his supplies and take Claire back to Earth. The supply drop came and went without an incident. The supply guy left one more thing to him, a can of WD-80, something that Claire thought that he should have remained of their together. One tear slid down Digger’s cheek. He didn’t bother to hide it at all.

He asked the supply guy whether he would send his thanks to Claire, and the supply operator merely said that Digger should thank her himself since she is his neighbor. This is when the Digger realized the implication of his words. It meant that Claire was staying; either that or the new Beacon 1529 operator was already here and messing with him.

Digger made his way to the com and sent out a message. Claire’s voice answered, and he was never more relieved about anything in his life.

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5. ‘Beacon 23: Part 5 – Visitor’ Summary & Ending Explained 

Digger and Claire start dating

Claire and Digger are settling into a routine. Digger is buying flowers, cheeses, chocolates, and other goods not approved by NASA, but they also bring something worse. News of Void War.

It seems that the War has finally reached Sector 8, the sector where Beacon 23 and Beacon 1529 are stationed. Digger knows that they will soon be enveloped by the conflict, but he doesn’t care, not at the moment.

Digger is finally getting comfortable with Claire. He is no longer afraid to cry. He recalls the only moment when he saw his father crying when the old dog died in an accident involving a tractor. He realized that at that moment, his father had broken down because of everything that had happened to him in life, not only because of a dog. The dog is only a symbol of crumbling reality.

The war comes for Sector 8

Claire does some tests on Digger, and they both realize that Digger might have PTSD, something obvious to us readers from the very first page of this book. The two have dinner together until their normalcy is interrupted by a blasting sound of sirens. The war has come to Sector 8 sooner than they expected it to come.

Claire, Cricket, and Digger are on their way to the lifeboats, but Digger is hatching a different plan altogether. He knows that the Ryph are either going to destroy those beacons or capture them silently since beacons, like bridges, are incredibly important, and it’s almost impossible to pass through this part of the Universe without them. That means that all survivors need to be eliminated as well, and that means Clair and Cricket.

Cricker and Clair board the lifeboats, and Digger ships them out at the last moment. Claire is unaware of the plan until it is too late. Digger plans on assuming control of the Beacon and ramming himself into a giant Ryph Reaper spaceship in order to buy the two of them some time to escape until at least they reach the nearest Asteroid.

Digger latches itself to the massive enemy ship, and his hull is breached, losing atmosphere quickly. He finds himself exposed to outer space, but instead of dying, he gets captured by Ryphs instead.

Rocky, his pet rock, starts talking again, which is a sign that he started losing his mind again. Rocky advises him against his judgment to be called and listens to what the giant Ryphs are telling him. There is a massive Ryph Lord in front of Digger, but it doesn’t kill him, at least not at first, and when Ryph puts his clawed hands on Digger’s face, it becomes obvious that the Ryph Lord that stands before him now is the same one that clawed him all those years ago when he refused to blow up a Ryph Hive.

The Ryph Lord tells him that he wants to stop the war, and he remembers him and the fact that Digger saved billions of his kind that day. Ryph Lord has a plan; he wants the Digger to turn off the beacon just as Earth’s fleet is supposed to pass through Sector 8, and he will do the same, destroying the Ryph Fleet as well.

The war needs to be stopped, and this is the only way to do it. Both sides can only gain from this act. A million lives taken today are billions of lives saved in the long run.

The Ryphs are ready for peace

At that moment, Digger realizes that Scarlett was Ryph’s agent who came to him to tell him about this plan. She did ask him whether he wanted to stop the war once and for all, and this was the moment that he realized that NASA was keeping both him and Claire here for military purposes. They were never discharged from the war. They were simply deployed somewhere else.

The Ryph Lord shows him Claire and Cricket unharmed, and a silent deal is made between the two species. Digger tells Claire about the plan, and she is shocked that he would even consider such a thing. Nevertheless, he manages to talk her into putting her beacon out at the time when Earth’s fleet is passing through.

The war is over

The moment has come. It’s only a moment away before the beacon is shut down and the fleet is destroyed. Digger is holding the button in his hands as millions of ships breach his space, appearing as stars in the deep black of the space. He communicated with Claire that he is not sure whether he will be able to destroy that fleet, he isn’t sure whether Claire will put up with her end of the deal, and he isn’t sure whether Ryphs will hold up to their end of the bargain as well.

Still, he presses the button, and the space goes dark. There is no longer a beacon to navigate the ships safely around the space debris. There is only darkness, and in a few seconds, that darkness will be filled with explosions of ships hitting asteroids at FTL speeds. Claire does the same; they are both traitors now, but they should get a medal for it.

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What happens at the end of ‘Beacon 23’?

Following the destruction of both fleets, the Yata Peace Council was held, and two species immediately stopped the war, entering peace negotiations, which eventually led to long-lasting peace. Digger and Claire returned to Earth, and they were still together.

Digger bought the lighthouse he spent so much time admiring while he was up in space, and he decided to repurpose it into a house. Claire was pregnant, carrying a boy, and Circket was with them back on Earth. The total cost of the Void War was over 18 billion lives, and half a billion lives were on Digger alone, but it was worth it, I guess since the war was stopped.

Digger wasn’t done with the war the day he was sent to Beacon 23; he was done with war the day he blew up that fleet, and he said no more. Oh, and by the way, he revealed his name to Claire but never to the readers.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

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