Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book review: Wool

Wool by Hugh Howey is a grass-roots phenomenon.  Howey published and promoted the book (actually a compendium of 5 novellas) via Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing system.  It gained popularity by electronic word-of-mouth and is now an unqualified success.  Howey has reportedly sold movie rights to 20th Century Fox.

Wool is the story of a dystopian society that exists in a vast silo, hundreds of levels deep, centuries after an apparent apocalypse has destroyed the world outside.  So far as the denizens of the silo are aware, they are the only survivors on the lifeless planet.  Their society is governed by hidden hierarchies and subtle politics, with factions distinguished by trades and professions:  politicians, farmers, mechanics, etcetera.  For the most part, the people in the silo are content to perform their duties (and everyone in the silo has certain prescribed duties) and live out their lives.  But occasionally someone expresses a desire to know more about the world outside.  When that happens, the survival of the silo is threatened for reasons that are revealed as the novel progresses.
What I enjoyed most about this novel was Howey's excellent pacing.   Like all the best science fiction novels, Wool discloses progressively.  Each new plot development uncovers more of the truth about this strange world.  And each new revelation is more mind-blowing than the last.  By the time you get to the end of the novel, the world is much different than it appeared at the beginning.

The biggest problem with the novel is its dull language.  The prose is wooden and at times awkward.  Howey is not a poet.  Further (and this is true of many science fiction novels) the characters are thinly drawn and lack complexity.  But, even considering those two weaknesses, the novel succeeds.  And that's because whatever Howey lacks in eloquence, he makes up for in raw imagination.

Howey has already published another book in the Wool series --a prequel.  There is certainly room for it.  The world he created has a myriad of realms to explore.

And just for kicks, here's a tease for would-be readers:  The people of the silo have an important ritual that involves wool.  (Hence, the title.)  After reading the book, see if you can determine why that particular substance --wool --is significant.  (Will Johnson illuminated the rest of us at our book club meeting.)

Happy Thanksgiving, lads!

1 comment:

Jeff Irwin said...

I enjoyed the entire series of Wool books, and have started his second series Shift.