Hugh Howey‘s Wool has been around for a few years, first starting as a series of short stories and novellas, before reaching its ultimate omnibus form. The accomplished and affecting story is darkly confined to an immense underground silo, with the outside world uninhabitable. Perfectly capturing the brutal conditions of isolated communities long after an unidentified apocalypse, the characters are stuck in a perpetual loop of maintaining the silo, only occasionally stepping outside to clean the sensors that look to the desolate world outside. The atmosphere alone is worth soaking up, but the story of determined characters unravelling the truth about their confinement is well worthy of the setting – it’s dark, tense and uncomfortable, but brilliant, reading. It’s also a marvel of independent success from a highly respectable author.
What’s Hugh Howey’s Wool about
Wool concerns a large community living underground, where their traditions (such as cleaning the outside sensors) have acquired a haunting, almost religious grandeur. It’s about the people behind the rituals, putting them in place to keep order in the silo, and the people who start to realise these rituals aren’t quite what they seem. Full of action, tension and drama, alive with instantly memorable characters, it’s a riveting story that will keep you guessing.
The omnibus novel concerns Silo 18, and an engineer named Jules’ tales, though it’s actually built up with a sequence of shorter stories following diverse lead characters. Though the survivors live in an established, large community (covering over 100 floors of different homes throughout the silo), there’s a huge sense of overwhelming loneliness and hopelessness in the story. As much as any lone-wanderer style post-apocalyptic story. And as oppressive as any larger dystopian society. The way the story evolves continually fills you with more of that feeling.
What’s so special about it
Other than the aforementioned powerful setting and story, Wool is an exceptional work of fiction in that it was written with the reader in mind, catering to a popular demand. It has been crafted as a series of dramatic shorter works of fiction, which gives each section a powerful sense of rising towards thrilling conclusions.
The way Howey wove this epic tale from small beginnings is impressive, as it developed from short stories into a full, epic novel (and now a series, with two similar omnibus sequels). The first were self-published and greeted by excellent reviews on Amazon, leading to Howey’s continuation of the series and its final place as a best-seller, and an optioned movie. Reading Howey’s accounts of his publishing deal and his movie deal, the background to the novel’s success is a great triumph in e-publishing. He turned down one million dollars so he could continue to produce novels on his own terms, for an already loyal audience. He succeeded in securing a publishing deal reflecting that. The result is a novel written directly for his readers, without big business interfering.
Wool is an excellent story in its own right, though; you’ll find it enjoyable without knowing anything about its background. It has all the dread and doom of the post-apocalypse with all the injustice and oppression of a dystopia, pervaded by deep, likeable characters.