Friday, May 18, 2012

Review of the Wool Omnibus (Wool 1-5) by Hugh Howey

I feel like I am on a bandwagon having read Wool, but bandwagons become bandwagons because they have something that resonates with people.

In the Wool series, Hugh Howey has created something he couldn't have foreseen. Amongst other things he has made readers care about his characters, imagine a believable future and he's kept them wanting for more.

I don't know if it was his original strategy, but I am glad that Wool started out as a novella. If you can grab your audience, engage their emotions and curiosity in a short form, you're probably a pretty good writer. Either that or your story has fired the what-if chemical in the readers brain, as Isaac Asimov did in the Foundation series, Frank Herbert did in the Dune series, Virginia Andrews did in much of her writing. These three writers created such a legacy, there are still books being published as prequels, sequels and spin-offs of their original works.

I'm not comparing the content of Wool to these others, but it already has the potential to grow beyond the scope and grasp of its creator. This is something most writers dream of.

Something else Howey has managed to do, with the help of a pretty decent distribution network in the Amazon Kindle store, is to be accessible. It is firstly accessible in the sense that anyone with a Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Android tablet/phone, or a computer can purchase and read his books. This accessibility and great price point has led to people who wouldn't previously have read science fiction giving it a go to see what all of the fuss is about, and he seems to have made plenty of converts.

I personally like Wool because I generally like to read, I love Science Fiction, I love dystopian fiction, I prefer short fiction, and I like encouraging independent writers. Wool ticks all of these boxes, however Howey is leaving the ranks of independent writers by signing with big publishers and selling film rights. Nobody should begrudge him this. I'd love to be able to write for a living, supporting my family doing something creative that I love.

Wool itself is a compelling character driven story about a post apocalyptic world where the survivors live in a subterranean city-in-a-building called a Silo. As the story unfolds, we see hints of a heavily orchestrated chain of events that have led to the story's present day. The society is controlled by strong taboos largely enforced by the all powerful IT department. The closed society is extremely hierarchical and segregated, each function involved in the running of the Silo is managed by a social group identified by the colour of their overalls.

Any desire to go outside is totally taboo. Anyone expressing curiosity about going outside is condemned to "cleaning". A "cleaning" involves sending the condemned outside to clean the external cameras that allow Silo inhabitants to see the limited view of the world outside. Once the cameras are cleaned, the condemned quickly succumbs to the toxic atmosphere and dies where they stand, a constant reminder and reinforcing of the societies taboos.

I'm not going to tell the whole story, even in synopsis form, as it is an easy and compelling read. Buy the Wool Omnibus from the Amazon Kindle store to get you started. It won't take you long to get through and you'll be hanging out for the next installment.
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