“People were like machines. They broke down. They rattled. They could burn you or maim you if you weren’t careful. Her job was not only to figure out why this happened and who was to blame, but also to listen for the signs of it coming. Being sheriff, like being a mechanic, was as much the fine art of preventive maintenance as it was the cleaning up after a breakdown.” ― Hugh Howey, Wool Omnibus
Wool Omnibus (#1-#5): 5 out of 5 stars
There are apparently already over two thousand reviews of this book already, so I will be brief. I. Loved. This. Book. Thanks, see you next week. KT … What? You want more? Grumble. Fine. I loved this book. I borrowed the Wool omnibus from the local library, as I had seen the book around and was intrigued by the cover. I hadn’t really heard much about the book at all (yes, as a matter of fact I do live in a cave, but I don’t see how this is relevant), so my expectations were almost nothing. Of course of the course of the last day I have been made aware of the Hugh Howey millionaire-eBook seller success story, and quite frankly I’m not surprised. I intend to buy the book now, as well as the sequels – I want this on my bookshelf.
The book starts in ‘The Silo’, an enormous underground bunker over a hundred stories deep in which the people live out their lives according to the rules. Procreation is forbidden unless someone else dies, upon which the eligible couples are placed in a lottery to win a chance to make the attempt. Their entire world is contained by and within the Silo, and the greatest crime is to ask to leave it. Wanting ‘go outside’ is punished by the worst punishment they can envisage – they allow them out.
I’m going to be brief in this review, as much of what I enjoyed about it was the gradual reveal – this is a book about secrets and lies, and spoilers would be a disservice to the book and to you readers. There is little this book doesn’t do well. Firstly, world creation. The world of the Silo had me hooked within a few pages. Howey has built an intricate and detailed world, from the very top at ground level, with screens constantly showing swirling toxic winds and the dead dusty desert, to the regulated and stratified existence of living on the various levels segregated by distance and/or duty; the professionals living in the uppers, the mids occupied by technicians and trades, and the greasy lowers where Mechanical and Supply live. Not only is the physical world fully fleshed out and engaging, but Wool introduces us to the delicately balanced society and politics of the Silo that is believable – the structures feel realistic. Secondly, I loved the characters, which I considered quite the work after the main character changes three times in the first few hundred pages. Sheriff Holston, Mayor Jahns, Mechanic Juliette. Each one was developed quickly but thoroughly – deeply, and I enjoyed reading each one more than the last. I even found myself rooting for the side characters, and pleased when the ‘villain’ was shown as more than one dimensional – a great lesson in the truism ‘the bad guys think they are the good guys’. Plot, pacing, theme. Wool is a story, a world, a plot, built on secrets and lies, and the theme revolves around how a structured society reacts (unravels?) when its foundation secrets are revealed. Like a game of Jenga, as each of the Silo’s hidden truths are pulled out, the whole structure wobbles threatening the whole thing. Critical to the success of any story based on continuous reveals is pacing, and again this is done exceptionally well. There were no dull moments, and each chapter brought a new revelation. None of these reveals felt forced or tricky however, it was more like chipping away at a rock to gradually expose the bones beneath. From a style perspective, the writing is fluid and quick to read, and exceptionally well polished. Either Howey is simply an excellent writer and drops these gold nuggets straight onto his keyboard, or he has an amazing editor. The writing is tight; poetic. I found his writing style a lot like Margaret Atwood’s – which could be why I enjoyed this so much. So, as I said at the start – I loved this book. If you read it and enjoy it too, let me know in the comments. 🙂 Cheers KT