Book Review – Wool Series (Hugh Howey)
On a whim, I picked up a short story last Friday for the e-reader. It’s called WOOL and is by Hugh Howey. The story of WOOL takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Humanity clings to survival in the Silo, a subterranean city extending hundreds of storeys beneath the surface.
Here’s the ad copy:
Thousands of them have lived underground. They’ve lived there so long, there are only legends about people living anywhere else. Such a life requires rules. Strict rules. There are things that must not be discussed. Like going outside. Never mention you might like going outside.
Or you’ll get what you wish for.
Within a couple hours of reading WOOL, I picked up the WOOL Omnibus, which collects the first five WOOL stories. By the next day, I had read through all of them and picked up First Shift – Legacy, which is set in the same fictional future.
Needless to say, I recommend the series.
More (spoiler-ridden) commentary and discussion follows the jump…
Commentary & Discussion
(Once again, spoiler alert.)
Hugh Howey, the author of WOOL is skilled at creating compelling ideas and presenting them well. The Silo is full of mysteries, which are often voiced by the characters. Why is there no elevator between levels, only stairs? Why isn’t the hearing protection kept outside the generator room? Why did Thurman outlaw cryo research after supporting it to such an extent?
In Howey’s shorter stories, the payback on these mysteries comes quickly. The first entry, WOOL, is only about 60 pages in length. It’s enough to get drawn into Holston’s character – to become invested in his story – but not so long that you lose interest. Perhaps it’s a symptom of a shorter attention span from information overload, or maybe I’ve just gotten lazier, but I’ve got no interest in ploughing through a twelve-volume series before reaching a conclusion.
Howey also has a talent of ending his stories well, but with loose threads still remaining. (Unintentional fabric reference, but fitting.) Not exactly cliffhangers – there is a sense of resolution – but exposing some new layer of the mystery. It was enough to keep me moving from one story to another until I had read them all.
The stories also conjure up excellent images of the environment and surroundings of the Silo. I’ve read a couple reviews which complain about the time spent describing the setting, demanding more action sequences. I prefer the detailed descriptions; they feel more real than the action scenes.
There a few instances which stretched credulity, particularly involving Jules. How would she know about decontamination procedures more suited to nuclear war? What string of coincidences would lead her to the secret server level in Silo 17 so quickly? And the whole underwater dive sequence just didn’t ring true… In the earlier stories, key characters died when they made a mistake; Juliette just kept fluking out. Is realism only for expendable characters?
Also, the compelling ideas seemed spread thinner in the longer entries – particularly WOOL 5 – The Stranded. This was my least favorite of the Silo stories; the only one that I was able to put down for an evening. Part of the length results from the need to convey a complete narrative for the characters in this larger story, but parts of it felt like filler.
Regardless of these nitpickings, WOOL drew me in and I’ll be picking up every new Silo story from Hugh Howey as soon as they are released. He’s full of ideas, and I want to see where they lead…
Here’s my final rating for each entry in the series. Unlike most online star ratings, I’m a pretty harsh – my “3” is probably most people’s “4.5”:
WOOL: ☢☢☢☢☢ (5 rad symbols out of 5)
WOOL 2 – Proper Gauge: ☢☢☢☢☢ (5/5)
WOOL 3 – Casting Off: ☢☢☢☢◯ (4/5)
WOOL 4 – The Unraveling: ☢☢☢☢◯ (4/5)
WOOL 5 – The Stranded: ☢☢☢◯◯ (3/5)
First Shift – Legacy: ☢☢☢☢◯ (4/5)
Again – I recommend this series highly and urge any post-apoc fans to check it out.
In a future post, I’ll explain which details of the Silo I’m going to swipe for the vault society of Tempora Mutantur…