Wool (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey

A DRM-free dystopian tale of the dangers without, and the people within… the Silo.

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (for mind to moderate swearing)

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but what is it that we know?  How much of the world around us is reality and how much of it is mixed in with the poison fed from up top?  The world “outside” is a dangerous place and the only remnant left of humanity has holed themselves up in an old silo all working toward a common goal: survival.  Growing food, running water… but it takes more than food and water to survive.  It takes hierarchy, rule, order, and a will to follow those rules at all costs… even if it might kill you.

When I started reading this I had a small idea of what to expect when it comes to writing style.  Previously I read   bu Hugh Howey, to give me a taste of the writing style.  This did not disappoint, thus prodding me to read the “big one” that everyone is talking about: Wool.  With the recent release of Dust (part 3 of the Wool series), I may be a little late to the game, but better late than never.  If you haven’t yet heard it from anyone else, you have now heard it from me.  “Go and buy this book!”

The Good:

Right from page one, the reader is sucked into this unknown world where the residents of Silo 18 are trying to survive inside a  (you guessed it) giant silo.  With each plodding step up a never-(well… eventually)-ending staircase, you can feel the atmosphere, smell the life, taste the… metal staircase… okay, so maybe my words ran ahead of my brain there, but that is not the case for Hugh Howey.  I was not as blown away by the beauty of the prose as I have been before, but Howey brings a special magic of his own that makes you lose yourself in the pages of this story.

The story opens with Holston, a man mourning (in his own way) over the loss of his wife.  By the end of part 1, the reader has learned so much about Holston, and what makes this man tick.  The internal monologue in this book is great, and it bleeds into the writing throughout making the whole story (not just the parts in those nice little italics that tell the world “this guy is thinking now!”) sound like it coming from the protagonist’s perspective.  The imagery is magnificent, and it changes with the POV. A mechanic compares a loner to an odd-sized washer that doesn’t fit any standard bolt.  Hugh Howey puts his mechanic hat on and thinks, “how would a mechanic describe this scene, this person, etc.” and then when the POV is from the perspective of a depressed sheriff or an old mayor, Howey takes off the mechanics hat and chooses either a cowboy suit with a star or an overly white wig (where appropriate of course).  Wool does not sound like it was written by Howey at all.  The characters inform the writing style/words used so much that every page turn feels fresh and vibrant with the magic of the moment.

The first three “parts” of this book are from a different character’s perspective, breathing new life into their character and Silo 18 as a whole.  The separating-one-book-into-smaller-parts model has never worked as well as it does in Wool.  The story continues on from part 1 to part 2, but it feels new and fresh through the eyes of someone else.  The silo comes alive again.

Not only are the characters so excellent that the reader feels a part of themselves being lost within the book, but the plot is astounding.  The chapters are nice bite-sized packages (allowing you to grab a “bite” in between if you so desire… or just another coffee) and as you tear through them like it really is the end of the world, and if you stop the book might disintegrate – forever lost to your longing mind – suddenly the plot twists and plot twists and your hands and left shaking.  Your mouth longs for water, stomach screams for food, eyes lack more sleep than a college student, but Wool is all you can think about.  It is all that is important.  “Just one more page.  Just one more chapter.”

The build-up throughout the parts is wonderful as a new character POV is introduced, things slow down a little, more of the culture and magic of what makes Silo 18 alive is revealed, and just when you wonder when the climax is coming, it hits you like a speeding rocket.  Things happen, plots are twisted, people might even die… but the story must go on.  Each part has a solid ending and a solid gear change into the next instalment, but the story is far from over.

Let’s pause for a second and be honest.  Sometimes a story gets slow.  Not every scene can have a shotgun wielding lunatic hiding around the corner waiting to kill you, or an impending nuclear explosion, or a car chase.  Sometimes things slow down and that can be okay, to a point.  Howey realised the benefit of the slower parts while not allowing the reader to get bogged down and begin to think, “when do we get back to that laser gun part.  That sounded pretty cool.” Whether it be a jump of POV or a jump in the timeline, Howey throws the reader around like a pinball, allowing the tension and emotion to build, even when things get slow.  The pacing is wonderful.

The Bad:

As far as “the bad,” I only have one things to say… The end of the world? Bad news guys.  That is the bad…

Okay, seriously though, there isn’t much I could pull out of this book as bad.  I hate to pick books apart (okay, that’s a lie.  I love it), and Wool really made me dig to find “the bad” to talk about.  Just like any split-into-parts-book I have read, the mode has it’s failings.  As I have stated above, I loved the way it was implemented with POV/voice changes in the first 3 parts, but that is where the magic ends.  The latter half of the book is good, but the part separation magic is lost.  The POV jumps between multiple characters like any other book out there and even the end of part 4 just feels like a “to be continued…” I way the book was written is engaging and successful, but I was sad to see the initial magic of the differentiated “parts” implementation be set by the way-side.

Conclusion:

What more is there to say.  Hugh Howey does everything right.  From the DRM-free packaging to the story, characters, and writing within, Wool smacks of excellence.  It is a riveting ride that will keep you on your toes and open your imagination to the beauty of the story, world, and characters.  If you like strong characters, wonderful prose (or books at all, really) this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Hugh Howey’s Official Website
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo

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