Updated on May 24, 2015
1. ‘Wool’ by Hugh Howey
It’s always good to start the year with a book that you can’t put down. Wool has been on my to-read list for a while, after I read that it originally started out as a self-published short story, which got so popular that it was eventually picked by publisher Random House and film studio 20th Century Fox. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is!
After unwrapping Wool on Christmas Day, I started it almost straight away, and for the next few days I carried it around with me everywhere, just in case I got the chance to read a few pages. I’m especially lucky as my family bought me the trilogy (it is called the Silo series), so I know it won’t be long before I’ve powered through the next two books as well.
Wool tells the story of a dystopian society, in which the ‘outside’ is an uninhabitable wasteland, with poisoned air that can eat through protective clothing in just a few minutes. The only surviving humans are forced to live in a massive underground silo: all food production, water purification and manufacturing takes place in this self-sufficient silo, which houses an often dysfunctional society.
Every so often criminals condemned to death are sent outside the silo to clean the lenses, which project the silo’s only view of the outside world onto a big screen in the food hall. But what is it that makes these people, minutes from death, clean the lenses for those who have exiled them? And what mysterious goings-on take place in the sinister IT department? Jules – a woman from Mechanical, in the very depths of the silo – finds herself thrown into the world of the ‘up top’ and finds that she must uncover her home’s many secrets.
Wool is quite a long novel, but I felt that it caught and held my attention for its entire length. The pacing is just right: every chapter ends with a minor cliffhanger which just makes you want to keep reading, an especially effective technique as more characters are introduced and the chapters switch between their viewpoints.
There’s a wonderful atmosphere of claustrophobia throughout the book, and the twists and revelations are both frequent and surprising. (I definitely thought I had it figured out within the first ten pages. I did not.) I also loved the theme of ‘otherness’: in a place where everybody is literally in it together, people still find a way to split off into groups and alienate each other. That’s a message that becomes particularly poignant towards the very end of the book.
An absolutely wonderful read to start the year with, Wool will hook you, reel you in and leave you wanting more.
“Silos hold seed for the bad times. For until the times get good again. We are the seeds. You can’t leave seeds this long. We rot.”
Interested in reading this? You can buy the book here.
Read my review of the next book in the series, Shift.