Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wool - Hugh Howey

   2012; 510 pages.  Full Title : Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1-5)  New Author? : Yes.  Books #1-#5 (out of 9) in the Silo series.  Genre : Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction; Dystopian Fiction.  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    In a post-apocalyptic world, evidently as a result of a nuclear holocaust, the descendants of the few who survived now live underground.  More specifically, their habitat is a huge silo (think “farm” silo, not “missile” silo), with more than 130 levels in it.

    There is a rigid caste system in place detailing who lives in which section of levels, but anyone can walk to the topmost level and gaze out onto the bleak landscape via a huge viewing-bubble window.  Of course, if you happen to live 130 levels underground and want to see what’s outside, you better have good legs, since there are no elevators in the silo, only stairs.

    The scene from the window is haunting – a ruined city in the distance, and dust-covered hills nearer to the silo.  Unfortunately, the dust gradually builds up and collects on the bubble, obscuring the view.  Someone needs to periodically go out and clean off the outside of the bubble with wool.  But it is a one-way mission, since the air is toxic outside and the suits the cleaners wear last only a couple minutes before the fatal leaks occur.  It’s long enough to clean the window, but no one ever makes it back inside afterwards.

    So the question is – how to determine who gets to do the suicide cleaning?

What’s To Like...
    Wool is divided into 5 parts, each of which gets progressively longer.  The first part, titled “Holston”, is actually a standalone short story, but is a compelling read despite only comprising 7% of the e-book.  The other 4 parts develop the story further and were reportedly written after a large number of readers clamored for sequels.

    Part 2 is another standalone, featuring a sheriff and a mayor traipsing from top to bottom of the silo, and back up again.  I got the feeling its main purpose was to give the reader a feel for how the silo was structured.  The main protagonist, Juliette, appears starting in Part 3, and her story continues through Parts 4 and 5.

    The characters are all unique and well developed.  Even the bad guys have at least one or two redeeming qualities.  The world-building is impressive in its detail, and the concept of living in silos after an apocalyptic event is original.  Although Hugh Howey doesn’t explain exactly what happened to destroy civilization (I blame Cormac McCarthy for popularizing that habit),  I gather that's dealt with in the next book, where the sequel is a prequel.

    The book is 500+ pages long, but has 81 chapters and an epilogue, so there’s always a good place to stop.  It ends at a logical spot, and leaves the reader thirsting to know what happens next.  If you liked George Lucas’s early film, “THX 1138”; and or Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery”, you will likely enjoy Wool.

Kewlest New Word …
Wicking (v.) : absorbing or drawing off (a liquid) by capillary action
Others : Gyred (v.)

Kindle Details...
    Wool sells for $4.99 at Amazon, which is an excellent price to introduce you to this series.  The other books in the series all sell for $5.99 apiece, and that's still a great price.

    But then, the lowering of the body and the plucking of ripe fruit just above the graves was meant to hammer this home: the cycle of life is here; it is inescapable; it is to be embraced, cherished, appreciated.  One departs and leaves behind the gift of sustenance, of life.  They make room for the next generation.  We are born, we are shadows, we cast shadows of our own, and then we are gone.  All anyone can hope for is to be remembered two shadows deep.  (loc. 2210 )

    He leaned back and peered under the table at the dog, who was half sitting on one of his boots and looking up at him with its foolish tongue hanging out, tail wagging.  All Knox saw in the animal was a machine that ate food and left shit behind.  A furry ball of meat he wasn’t allowed to eat.  He nudged the filthy thing off his boot.  “Scram,” he said.
    “Jackson, get over here.”  McLain snapped her fingers.
    “I don’t know why you keep those things around, much less breed more of ‘em.”
    “You wouldn’t,” McLain snapped back.  “They’re good for the soul, for those of us who have them.”  (loc. 4005)

 “We get no credit for being sane, do we?”  (loc. 4354)
    I’ve been eager to read Wool for quite some time, particularly since it is almost always checked out at my local library, both as an e-book and in hardcover.  And while it was a worthwhile read, there were some disappointments.

    First and foremost, in most post-apocalyptic tales, the reader looks forward to seeing what kind of life –human, critters, mutants, or otherwise – somehow survived and now inhabit the ravaged planet.  And while there is a bit of a “life beyond the silo” encounter here, it is rather limited in scope.

    Secondly, this cannot be described as an action-packed story.  Yes, there is eventually a rebellion, but let’s face it, there’s always a revolt in a dystopian novel, and here it is late in arriving on the scene.  Also, a lot of what action there is happens off-screen.  The undoing of the bad guy?  We’re told about it later.  The heroic climax of the rebellion?  Yep, off-screen.

    Overall, I wouldn’t say Wool is a bad story or a waste of time.  But it didn’t live up to my admittedly high expectations.

    7 Stars.  Add 1½ stars if your favorite machine at the gym is the stairmaster and you just love the idea of trudging up and down steps.  You'll be walking on air here.

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