Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Review of Hugh Howey's Wool.


The Wool Omnibus is one of the best and most original science fiction books I have read. It is full of tension and intrigue from page one, and that tension is maintained through to the very last page. Anyone who enjoys stories set in strange post-apocalyptic worlds that have themes more complex than just power struggles and good versus evil should enjoy Wool.

Wool is a collection of five novellas containing three separate stories that logically follow on from each other. The series is set on a future devastated Earth.  Earth’s atmosphere is full of deadly and corrosive chemicals that can eat through a space suit in a matter of minutes. So the remnants of humanity have retreated to an underground silo.

The silo has 130 levels and a central staircase that connects all the levels. There are no lifts, and no web or phones, as the silo’s designers did not wanted communication between the silo’s inhabitants to be easy. The silo’s designers didn’t want unruly gatherings of disaffected citizens or twitter revolutions occurring.

Mechanicals, the engineers and maintenance workers who keep the power and plumbing functioning, live at the bottom of the silo. Intermediate levels contain the food growing and manufacturing areas as well as habitation levels. They also contain the secretive IT section. The mayor and silo’s sheriff live at the top alongside a doorway to the toxic outside.

The first story in the collection is called Wool and is about the silo’s sheriff, Holston. He is investigating why his wife choose to be exiled from the silo and die in the toxic wasteland outside. This story introduces the claustrophobic insides of the Silo, and has the reader asking why are its inhabitants so docile?

The second story, Proper Gauge, follows the relationship of Jahns the mayor and Marnes, her deputy as they travel over three days down to the bottom levels of the silo. Their journey ultimately introduces them to a mechanical named Juliette, who is the main character of the following stories. The story builds on the intrigue of the first as there are still many unanswered questions.

The remaining three novellas could have been turned into a novel themselves as they tell the one story. They follow Juliette as she unlocks the dark secrets behind the silo and what happened to the planet above her. In this story we discover who really controls the silo and what happened to the world outside.

Much of the series takes place in the heads of the main characters as they trudge up and down the stairs. They don’t know who to trust so they are weary on what they say to others, less they be forced outside.

The series explores the theme of how control of information can be used to control a population. It asks the question, is it right to lie to the population as the truth might cause society to collapse into death and chaos? So it light of recent Wikileaks and CIA leaks, the story has much relevance to the world as it is today.

The series was self-published by Hugh Howey. But don’t let that put you off, it is very well written. In March 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported Wool had sold more than half a million copies. Wool has been so successful that Howey recently signed a print distribution deal reported to be worth half a million dollars with Simon and Schuster. Howey kept the ebook rights. Film rights to the series have been sold to 20th Century Fox and Ridley Scott is said to be interested in making the film.

The Wool omnibus had a satisfy ending, but left room for a sequel, which Howey has already written. He has written a prequel too, which I purchased the day after I finished reading the Wool collection.


Anthony J. Langford said...

Wow - good for him. I think that's how that piece of turd 50 Shades came about. Nice to hear one of the good guys getting somewhere, though publishers are more interested in the sales aspect rather than content as referenced above - but you do make it sound very appealing. May have to investigate.

Keira McKenzie said...

I've heard reviews & interviews with this author. It does sound an intriguing piece of work

Roma said...

I have read 'Wool' and 'Shift' myself, they are both really quite good. I am currently working on a wide reading, or rather, an essay on 'Wool' for school in year 10. Although I can't wait for 'Dust', I hope it will be even better than the other two combined.