Saturday, January 18, 2014


Title: Wool
Author: Hugh Howey
Series: Silo Saga, book 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2012
Rating: 8.5/10

Review: A friend gave me Wool as a gift for Christmas. It's a fairly long book composed of 5 parts that were originally published separately, and later put together into one omnibus. Together they compose a self-contained story arch that's the first part of the Silo Saga.

The setting of the book is the future apocalyptic Earth. People live in a silo: a cylindrical underground compound with 150 levels. There is a combination of modern technology and old-fashioned society. For example, they have computers, servers, technology to keep women from becoming pregnant. On the other hand, the only way to travel between levels is a long spiral stairway. The goods are brought around by porters from level to level and most people are apprenticed to one profession in which they stay all their lives.

At the top level of the silo, there are several screens that show outdoors. On those screens you can see desolated Earth with dust hurricanes coming and going. The story begins with the current sheriff of the silo, Holston, when he volunteers to go cleaning. Cleaning is the capital punishment of the silo for those who want out. However, Holston's wife has discovered erased data on the servers that perhaps things outside are not as they seem.

I started the book feeling a bit skeptical because it's a set of self-published novels. However my worries were soon assuaged. The reading went smoothly and the book was both well written and clearly edited. The prose is not beautiful, but it is effective at conveying the message and it's easy to read. After the first few pages I stopped examining the grammar suspiciously and started enjoying the underlying story.

The place where the story shines is the plot. There are secrets behind secrets in the book and more twists the farther the reader proceeds in Wool. A few very surprising things happen early on. The book creates a sense of uncertainty and I enjoyed the fact that it didn't feel predictable. Another great thing about the book is that there's definitely a sense of internal consistency to the narrative. The author doesn't employ deus ex machina to solve his characters' problems. There are perhaps a couple of scenes where the characters' achievements strained belief, but overall the story is expertly put together.

There are a handful of protagonists in the novel, both men and women. I liked the varied personalities, though at times some were too obviously virtuous and others too obviously evil. Nevertheless, they often had interesting features and flaws that helped me relate to them and enjoy the narrative more.

The ending of the story was satisfying, but a bit confusing in a few places. I hope the following books in the series would resolve remaining questions. Definitely planning to read the next set of stories in Shift.

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