REVIEW: Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool by Hugh Howey is set in a post-apocalyptic world where people live in vast, underground silos.

In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo.

 Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies.

 To live, you must follow the rules. But some don’t. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others with their optimism.

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 Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside.

 Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last.

Review copy provided by Random House through NetGalley

A note: This is actually the Wool omnibus, collecting  Novellas 1-5 of the series originally self-published by Howey. I’m new to the wonderful world of Wool, which is shocking considering my status as one of the main reviewers at In Case of Survival. However, it has a lot of what I like in a series – a female protagonist, a post-apocalyptic world, an assault against oppressive regimes.

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These things are my catnip. So, how does it pan out for me?

Wool is quite  slow-burning book, and the description doesn’t really give you a very good idea of what the book is actually about. This is a shame, but I can see how it happens as actually describing it would spoil some of the best and most shocking parts of the book.

The fact it was written as seperately published novellas is quite obvious. Each of the individual novellas has its own beginning, middle and end, before moving onto the next. The first novella has nothing to do with Jules at al, but sets up the whole story, and the second doesn’t include her as a viewpoint character, but sets up the mystery. There are some problems with this approach – it can mean that reading them as a whole book can feel a bit choppy and uneven – but there are also plus points in that the world-building can be done slowly through the eyes of different character. We can also get to know the characters well and really feel the impact of their decisions.

And of course, even the most clumsy of structures would pale next to Howey’s writing. He is quite simply a very good writer. There are no fake, pretentious attempts at being deep and poetic, but neither is the writing bland and workmanlike. Instead, Howey builds structures out of sentences that allow us to see clearly. His is the sort of writing that leaves you feel vague and disconnected after reading. He makes it look so simple, but each sentence must have been carefully chosen. This is a writer who really understands and loves the power of words.

The plotting is tight and effective. There seems to be no moments of nonsense, no episodes where I scream at the characters for making decisions that are ridiculous, or that don’t make sense according to their character. Howey does what a good writer should by letting his characters and their personalities drive what happens, not forcing them to do stupid things in order to create the plot.

I just can’t fangirl about this enough, I’m afraid.

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Wool is excellent. Read it.

This review was initially posted on Books are My Drug.

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