Wool by Hugh Howey
Wool is the first adult sci-fi book I’ve read in a while, and it did NOT disappoint. I had been putting it off because I was a bit (a lot) intimidated by its thickness but I am now very annoyed that I didn’t pick it up sooner! As I write this review I’m actually finding myself smiling at the thought of it.
Wool is set in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone lives in underground silos, with 144 levels each with different purposes. The earth’s air is toxic, and the people live under lots of regulations but there is one main one: never say you want to go outside. Going outside is fatal, and the people who get sent out only live long enough to clean the cameras which provide a view of the outside world. Anyone who says they want to go outside are sent, as well as criminals.
I’ll start with the plot and writing. The writing and plot were amazing. The end.
Not about the plot being amazing though. There was a delicious mix of slow reveals with clues dispersed through the chapters, and shock reveals that left me staring into the distance trying to process it. Since it’s been a while, I had forgotten how complex adult sci-fi could be and how many things happen simultaneously and it was a delightful surprise, never over-complicating while having lots of depth. The further I got the more questions I had, and one answer would create a thousand more questions which I loved since the answers came at a sensible rate. The story is brilliantly paced, keeping the atmosphere of different scenes right while moving on the plot. Basically most of my notes are me being shocked. Some quotes include ‘I am shook. How did I not see this coming. I’m as observant as a mole’ and ‘If I am given one more shock I will have a heart attack please stop this and let me live the story, I keep having to stop.’ I also noted down page 200, so I think the action steps up then. The action descriptions are wonderful and immersive, bringing me onto the characters.
The main character, Jules, is not introduced immediately, instead we follow the story of a couple of other members of the silo. This continues throughout the novel, so while we spend a lot of time following Jules, we also follow several other characters for varying amounts of time to supplement the plot. Even so, I fell in love with Jules almost immediately. She was direct and down to earth and not afraid to speak her mind. The characters are subtly created through their interactions rather than descriptions leaving strong impressions, and then smashing my heart to pieces over charcters I barely know.
I always love seeing the communities in fantasy and sci-fi, how different people interact, and this novel illustrates its world beautifully, mostly drip-feeding information about the building of the silo, the different levels and how people interact. The way they live fascinates me, like how the electricians are a family and how people only go up to the top levels after a clearing and the different uses of the different levels as well as the mysterious way relationships and families work, which I’m still slightly in the dark about. Quick clue though: the place is very dysfunctional.
In conclusion, wow. The characters. The plot. The action. Just amazing. The only problem is that it ended far sooner than I thought, because there were lots of pages at the back! Very disappointing but the ending was great, and I’m excited to read the sequel. Would I survive this book? Unlikely, I hate being underground, I probably would have been wiped out in the apocalypse.