It’s always good when you happen upon a book series by an author you don’t know, and it turns out to be very decent indeed. I was actually introduced to the ‘Wool’ series written by Hugh Howey by a friend who happens to be an avid reader. Wool as it currently stands is a 5-part compendium of short stories, and some further prequel reading in ‘Wool – First Shift’. I picked the 5-part omnibus up for 5 USD on Amazon as a Kindle e-book.
I don’t want to give too many spoilers here, but it’s almost inevitable. Essentially it’s the story of the people of the Silo in the future. The remnants of humanity live in a bunker called the Silo, unable to go outside, and indeed forbidden to even speak of the intent.
The silo – 144 floors going down into the earth – has simple governance, a sheriff, a mayor and groups of levels tasked with functions such as hospitals, mechanics, IT, food production etc., all connected via a massive spiral staircase from top to bottom with porters running messages and goods up and down. On the top floor are massive LCD screens showing the brown apocalyptic view outside, the scene coming from cameras mounted outside which gradually degrade in picture quality from the never ending toxic winds until someone speaks the words that they wish to go outside, at which point they are suited up and sent outside to clean, using wool pads to clean the cameras – and hence the title ‘Wool‘. They always clean, and they never come back.
The stories get progressively longer, with some characters continuing from one short story to the next. The writing is functional but does lend a certain claustrophobic feel to it, and you can feel the author’s development and confidence grow with each of the 5 initial story lines. Much of the drama revolves around the interactions of the Mechanics who keep the generators running, pump oil and live in the bottom floors, and the IT department and it’s somewhat sinister boss. There are a good collection of characters, and fortunately Howey is willing to kill off characters as required which I count as a plus (I’m looking at you, most manga series!), meaning there’s some good weight and consequence to the stories.
Howey also manages to give more depth (so to speak) to his world as he goes on without any of it feeling too reworked (or retconned) to fit the earlier stories. Whilst some of the twists are a bit obvious he still managed to pull a few from nowhere even in the 5th installment.
Again, I can’t go too much into the plot without spoilers, but much of the revelation and plot drive is based on the simple questions we would have in the Silo – why is it there, who made it, what is it’s history?
For 5 dollars it’s worth a download (or buying the print edition) to find out.