Wool: Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey
Simon and Schuster, ISBN 978-1476733951
March 12, 2013, 528 pages
Is it that bad a society?
Their basic needs are met, even if the whole place has a gritty, steam punk feel to it. They live underground, in a giant buried concrete silo, 144 stories deep, linked only by one spiral staircase, that takes days to navigate from top to bottom, creating a society of very distinct communities.
Most of all it is a world of secrets, dreadful secrets that will be
revealed, slowly, one by one, building up to an exciting and surprising
From the lowest level where the mining and drilling for oil are accomplished, to the upper levels that contain the mayors office , the cafeteria and not least of all the giant screen that are the only view of the bleak outside, the ruined city in the distance, the grey clouds of the toxic air. But they have given up many freedoms to form this society. Any relationship must be approved by the powers that be and couples must enter a lottery to allowed to have their implants to be remove so that they can attempt to have a child. And that is only done when their number is decreased by one, but natural death or by being sentenced to perform a "cleaning" the ultimate punishment.
The one condemned to the cleaning will put but in a protective suit and sent outside, their first task to clean the grime that is built up on the camera lens to retain their view on the screens inside. Their second is to die out there, quickly, painfully, their body becoming just another grey lump on the landscape until it denigrates in the toxic wind.
What do you do to deserve this? Well, the most common reason is that you question what might be out there. And that leads to what is maybe the biggest question. When sentenced to death, a horrible death, why does ever one of them pause to clean the lens first, before stumbling on to their death. Why does no one refuse? Well, that is until Juliette.
Juliette, is drafted from the deep down levels of the Mechanicals to be appointed Sheriff, and it is only days later that her investigations into her predecessors death will have her scheduled to be the latest person cast out. But this time it will be different, because she is quite the whiz and not so easily taken down. As she starts chipping away at the secrets, it is not long before she and the friends she leaves behind may be able to bring down a careful constructed facade, generations old, revealing the troubling secrets it covered up.
If you read my Musing Monday last week, you might know something about the history of this book. It was self published by Mr. Howey on Amazon, first as a five part series, then all together as one book. It became a huge bestseller and if 3,247 five star reviews can be believed, a critical success around readers. So can thousands of fans be believed?
Yes, they can.
This is a heck of a good ride of book, a great plot, with surprise after surprise revealed, with a startling and quite good ending. True, not everything is revolved. Happily, a short epilogue resolved some of our remaining questions,. but this book just calls out, loudly, for part 2. It will make a fantastic movie, which is a good thing, since Howey has already sold the movie rights. And the hardcover and the paperback rights, keeping the digital rights, the place he started, for himself.
Juliette is a great character, smart and resourceful but far from perfect, but also far from the only great character. And maybe the greatest character of all is the silo itself, in many ways a living, breathing thing, always a presence. It is at times a comforting home, at others, a great beast to be fought against. Howey has created a complete and believable and rather troubling world, a wonderful setting for an interesting tale of friendship and bravery, deceit and evil.