I wanted to read Wool (2013) by Hugh Howey after I saw it in an airport bookstore, but I had to read it when it became the next book for my book club. I’ve read what feels like a little too much dystopian fiction lately but this one looked intriguing and I was looking forward to it.
The entire population is kept safe from the toxic environment outside by a huge, underground silo, falling 150 floors into the ground below. The population is divided clearly into classes with distinct living spaces and jobs, and the population is strictly guarded by rules overshadowed with the penalty of death. If someone breaks the rules, they are forced out of the safety and community of the silo. The book begins with Sheriff Holston asking to go outside, basically asking for death.
Juliette, a smart, independent, and proactive woman who works down in the bowels of the silo with the mechanics and with no previous law experience is brought up to the top floors to be the next sheriff. She stumbles into a number of mysteries and corruption as she tries to do her job–learning that there is more to her world than she previously knew.
On the whole, I enjoyed this book. It set itself apart from other Dystopians with great characters, mystery, excitement, and believable technical and mechanical details. The overlay of class differences and controlling society was fascinating. However, there were a number of details that either didn’t make sense to me or I couldn’t buy. It’s possible that some of these are explained more fully in the later novels, but it did take me out of the book to some extent.
SPOILERS FOLLOW as I complain about the details:
First, I couldn’t understand what was making the condemned clean the lenses of the camera and why that was even important. Sure, they are deceived into believing that the world is clean and beautiful again, but why would that make them clean the camera. Do they think their cleaning is going to make the silo see what they’re seeing? Do they think that the world changed that much since the last cleaning? Why do they care about the silo at all after they’ve been thrown out. Sure, I can see some people choosing to clean, but making it a rule that determines whether or not there will be rebellion didn’t make sense to me.
Second, I couldn’t understand the motivation for building the silos and destroying the world in the first place. I guess you can simply say those guys were crazy, but the book would have more punch if it were more believable. So, some crazy leaders in America were mad that they had lost their superpower status. Their solution is to destroy the entire world and put up a small percentage of the population in separated silos? Most of the unrest and questioning came from the lies and injustice of the silo keepers. People revolted because of the treatment of Juliette, not because people were desperate to die in the horrible atmosphere outside.
I was also a little disappointed with the love story between Juliette and her guy. They barely even had a conversation before they were devoted to each other. It wasn’t much to go on, and it didn’t do much for me.
Finally, I was curious. Why overalls? Even for judges? Are they really the most practical choice in a world with limited resources?
All right, that’s a lot of complaining, and I don’t take any of it back, but Howey is a talented writer and Wool was fast paced, mysterious and exciting with some great characters. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be reading the rest of this series, but I did enjoy this one.
Find all of my reviews on my blog.