Of Musings and Wonderings

{July 13, 2013}   Wool by Hugh Howey

WoolBecause it would be hard to sum up this book in my own words, I’m going to let Goodreads do it for me.

“In a ruined and toxic landscape, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.”

I love dystopian novels, stories of what may happen to the human race after zombies or some sort of mass event. So Wool was right up my street. My mum mentioned it in passing ages ago, hearing about it on the radio, and it sat on my to-read list for way too long. But finally I got it, read it and finished it yesterday.

To me, there seem to currently be two ‘postapocalyptic’ type of stories that are popular right now. The wasteland where people survive on their own or in pockets (think Revolution or The Walking Dead) or the 1984 dystopian society novels, where there is government in charge and either keep everyone depressed and oppressed, or where the people are blissfully ignorant of what is really happening and just go about their day to day business.

The last one essentially sums up ‘Wool’. The silo in which these people live operates pretty much peacefully, and everyone has their place. The up top, the mids, the down deep. People mine or farm or work the IT servers, work in the nurseries and hospitals, schools or as mechanics. They work together and take on ‘shadows’, apprentices who will learn and continue to work.

The inhabitants seem quite content, happy with their lot and with how things are going. They just go about their daily lives, doing what people do, without questioning any of it. They celebrate when someone is sent outside for ‘cleaning’, as they are given a clearer view of the world outside. They, simply, do what they are told. Until events are set in motion and the upper levels of the silo are thrown into turmoil.

I love reading different viewpoints; it works especially well in a book like this, where there is quite a lot going on and it impacts the characters in different ways. But it can be tricky. Howey, however, does a great job of giving these different characters distinctive voices, of really making them stand out from one another even in third person. He enables you to get into the heads of these people, and you get a really clear picture of what life in the silo is like for the characters we meet without the boring, day-in day-out stuff. It feels like a lot of main turning points take place in relatively boring places; a bunker or the stairwell. But Howey really makes these places come alive, and the Silo almost becomes a character in its own right.

That said, I do think there were some aspects of the characters that just didn’t come out. We don’t see enough to Jules’ and Lukas’ relationship to really get a solid idea of it, and we don’t see enough of Peter Billings to know why he does what he does towards the end. There are some characters who deserve a little more light on them so their arc makes sense. Still, it’s still a good novel and an enjoyable read.

Howey has a tendency to reveal certain secrets to the reader before the characters figure them out, and it works. It keeps you reading just so you can see what their reactions will be when they find out, and it makes you wonder what they will do when the penny drops. It also has you questioning what certain things would mean for the Silo as a whole – like I said above, the characters who aren’t impacted by the main story seem to live their lives quite blissfully, so really, what would revealing the truth do for them? Yes, it’s all very noble wanting to educate them to what’s really going on, but after all ignorance is bliss and who knows what the majority of the Silo will do when they are told the truth. Will they just carry on in their jobs as normal? Practically every job is crucial to the running of the Silo and the lives of everyone in it. What if just a few of them turned around and went “Nope. Not doing it anymore.”?

But maybe that’s in one of the other books in the trilogy. Maybe it’s not.

But yeah, Wool is an interesting read, with characters and events that will stick with you and leaves you with an urge to know what happens to them next. Luckily, there’s two more books for that. So if you like postapocalyptic/dystopian novels then I would strongly suggest this book.

I still don’t get why it’s called Wool though.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your comments. And if you have any other postapocalyptic novels you think I should read, please let me know. I am constantly on the look out for more.


[…] Wool by Hugh Howey (ofmusingsandwonderings.wordpress.com) […]

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