Wool by Hugh Howey
It will come as no surprise to anyone who follows these book reviews that I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic and utopian/dystopian fiction. My fascination can be traced back to middle school when I stumbled upon Robert C. O’Brien’s Z for Zachariah (a fabulous young adult book!) and then it followed me through my high school discovery of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. And while I’ve read more books than I could ever count, one that has lingered large in my mind, even years later, is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It is with this reading genealogy that I stumbled upon an online article about Wool, which I read probably half of, before tabbing over to BN.com to purchase and download my very own copy.
Hugh Howey’s Wool has been tearing up my newsfeeds with tales of how he skirted the establishment when it came to publication, how as an author he is forging new routes to publication and what shifts in the industry might come from his new take on publication. And, while I find all of those things interesting, I’m much more impressed with the product itself- his book! Wool’s setting is a silo, in which lives an entirely self-contained society. Within their small (although not-so-small as you find out just how much the silo contains!) world, these people live lives dedicated to keep their silo running. Some work in the (literally) higher levels as law enforcement and government, while others man the farms that are fertilized with the remains of the deceased and still others work at the lowest levels of the silo, keeping the machines that provide clean air and water functional.
In such a closed society, the biggest taboo is to express a desire to leave the silo. Merely mentioning a wish to step outside is greeted with the harshest punishment possible- cleaning. To be sent to cleaning is a death sentence- as it means going outside the silo into the polluted air to clean the lenses that allow the inhabitants to see what lies beyond their walls. Each time someone is sent to cleaning, they swear they won’t do it, they will go outside and die without polishing the sensors, and yet every time, once the doors of the silo close behind them, the doomed does the cleaning. But why?
Wool explores not only the reasons behind the obedient behavior of the damned, but also the chinks in the armor of the silo elite as their world starts to possible crumble around them. The novel, originally written as individual short stories, takes the reader on a ride with several main characters, allowing for both “up top” and “lower level” perspectives of this secluded life. Since the ending of the book leaves room for exploration into the world of the future, I am hoping to see a follow-up book coming out soon! Hugh Howey’s Wool easily earns: