Wool By Hugh Howey
|Item Weight||1.04 pounds|
|Product Dimensions||5.5 x 1.3 x 8.25 inches|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster; Reprint Edition (March 12, 2013)|
|Best Sellers Rank||#23,759 in Books|
|#349 in Dystopian Fiction|
|#622 in Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction|
|#1,060 in Science Fiction Adventures|
The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do. While they thundered about frantically above, Holston took his time, each step methodical and ponderous, as he wound his way around and around the spiral staircase, old boots ringing out on metal treads.
The treads, like his father’s boots, showed signs of wear. Paint clung to them in feeble chips, mostly in the corners and undersides, where they were safe. Traffic elsewhere on the staircase sent dust shivering off in small clouds. Holston could feel the vibrations in the railing, which was worn down to the gleaming metal. That always amazed him: how centuries of bare palms and shuffling feet could wear down solid steel. One molecule at a time, he supposed. Each life might wear away a single layer, even as the silo wore away that life.
Each step was slightly bowed from generations of traffic, the edge rounded down like a pouting lip. In the center, there was almost no trace of the small diamonds that once gave the treads their grip. Their absence could only be inferred from the pattern to either side, the small pyramidal bumps rising from the flat steel with their crisp edges and flecks of paint.
From The Guardian
Perhaps inevitably, Hugh Howey’s Wool has been described as the science-fiction version of Fifty Shades of Grey. Howey initially self-published the first installment of his post-apocalyptic story – just 60 pages – in July 2011. By October, readers were clamoring for more, and he duly obliged. His novel now runs to over 500 pages and has hit US bestseller lists, with book deals on both sides of the Atlantic, and film rights picked up by Ridley Scott.
The Fifty Shades comparison does Howey an injustice, however. This author can really write, and the dystopian life he has imagined is, at times, truly disturbing. This is a world where the air is deadly, and where humanity has lived ever since anyone can remember, in a giant underground silo, a bunker hundred of stories deep, creating everything people need beneath the earth. The outside world can only be seen through a blurry image projected onto a wall, “lifeless hills … a familiar rotting skyline … ancient glass and steel”. The filth of the atmosphere gradually coats the cameras capturing the view, and the silo’s capital punishment is “cleaning”: the criminal is sent outside to polish the lenses before being overcome by poisonous gases.
The 60-page story with which Wool opens covers what might be the last hours of Holston, the sheriff of the silo, who is still mourning the death of his wife through “cleaning” years earlier. Inexplicably, he locks himself into the silo’s holding cell. “‘Get the mayor,'” Holston said. He let out a sigh, that heavy breath he’d been holding for three years. ‘Tell her I want to go outside.'”
A great pleasure of dystopian fiction is the reader’s excess of knowledge: we know what the world used to be, and watch characters struggle towards the truth. Howey provides this in spades. Holston is grappling his way towards a realization that there might be more to the world than the 150 floors of the silo and its strict, unbreakable rules.
The priests say the silo has always been there, created by a benevolent god to protect them from the deadly atmosphere outside. But ancient children’s books contain images of a colorful planet, and despite the edicts forbidding so much as a mention of the outside world, much of the silo yearns for it. Not Jules, though, the tough, ingenious mechanic who takes over from Holston as Howey’s lead character. She’s utterly unintrigued by the outside, “an uninhabitable wasteland devoid of anything useful”. Clearly, then, she’s going to be forced to confront the real world, and her investigations into the whys and wherefores of the silo’s existence swiftly prove dangerous.
Some elements of Wool work brilliantly: the first two sections are frightening, intriguing, and mysterious. Holston, the old mayor Jahns and Holston’s deputy, Marnes, are unusual, fully realized characters. Jules is an attractively grease-stained heroine, and some of the tribulations Howey pushes his protagonists through are truly horrendous – and engrossing. He has had enormous fun with the details of his dystopia: the lottery inhabitants of the silo must go through to be allowed to reproduce, following a death; the reality of life in a world partitioned by a single enormous staircase; the claustrophobia of underground existence.
Other elements don’t work so well. It’s partly down, I think, to the way the novel developed. It started life as a very good short story. That story grew as readers fell in love with the world Howey had created, and as he wrote, the tightness and the skill with which he began unraveled somewhat. He throws in a character – Lukas, a love interest for Jules – who rings false. And while mostly he writes well, sometimes he gets a bit flowery. At one point he indulges in some truly dire love poetry (“Wait for me. Wait for me. Wait there, my dear/ Let these gentle pleas find your ear”).
“Secrets unfold with just the right pacing… If you’re looking for a good post-apocalyptic read, you can’t do much better than WOOL.” — Rick Riordan, bestselling author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series
“With WOOL Hugh Howey has created a new science fiction classic.” — Ernest Cline, bestselling author of READY PLAYER ONE
“Exilharating, intense, addictive.” — S.J. Watson, bestselling author of BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP
“In WOOL, Hugh Howey delivers the key elements of great science fiction: an authentic and detailed future-world; realistic, relatable characters to live in it; and a taut, thoughtful story. Howey’s supple, muscular writing is the icing on the cake.” — Jonathan Hayes, author of A HARD DEATH
“Sci-fi’s Underground Hit… appeal[s] to both men and women, and has attracted hard-core science fiction fans as well as general readers, much like ‘The Hunger Games.’”, The Wall Street Journal