Hugh Howey's dystopian science fiction series Wool still remains firmly affixed on the top of the best seller lists at Amazon, rating number one in three different categories although some of the individual stories which make up the Omnibus volume reviewed here have since dropped off the list. If you are interested in knowing a little more about Howey, I will be posting an interview in which we discuss his journey as an independent author.
In Part Two of the interview we will also have a spoiler-filled discussion of the Wool series. However, Wool is a series which deserves a spoiler-free introduction to readers wary of sorting through the piles of dross created by the ongoing ebook revolution. Howey is among a growing list of authors who are making successful careers of publishing without the assistance of agents and traditional publishing houses. The traditional argument has been that if a book couldn't find a publisher it probably wasn't worth reading.
However, just as iTunes changed how consumers found music and the way in which bands made their bread, ebook readers, and in particular the Kindle, are changing the ways in which authors find their readers and make a living. All of this means the old assumptions about indie books no longer hold true and readers need to be prepared to adjust their expectations accordingly.
The Wool Omnibus is a great book and deserves recognition as a full fledged contribution to the science fiction genre. What would human beings be like if for several hundred years they had been forced to live in a giant container, a refuge from the destruction of the planet?
Would we recognize them? Would they have changed?
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Would we understand their concerns and desires? Our ubiquitous human nature and some of its seemingly unchanging characteristics are major themes in Howey's Wool. Tens of thousands of people are packed into a silo buried in the Earth, protected from the toxic atmosphere which surrounds it. Yet despite hundreds of years, the occupants still long to explore, to expand their horizons. Howey explores the traditions, mores and laws necessary to protect this remnant of humanity from the creative urges and deep desires which always seek to push beyond the safe confines of the silo into the unknown.
Wool argues that the underlying claustrophobia of such living conditions are hardwired into the human being and even hundreds of years cannot breed it out.
Wool Omnibus Edition (Books 1-5 of the Silo Series) Summary & Study Guide
His writing style captures this claustrophobia as occupants of what is essentially an over-sized buried skyscraper climb the single stairway which threads its way through the heart of the silo. Trips up and down the stairway become overnight adventures taking up to a week. There is room underground, but inevitably someone will decide they need to go outside and have a look around. This is a one-way trip from which none have ever returned.
In fact the atmosphere outside the silo is so toxic that all those who make the trip out the airlock die within sight of the great view screens which line the top level of the bunker. He released another as a follow-up. Still, they wanted more. After the first five were published, he compiled them together and released the omnibus edition as a stand-alone novel. Up top, the world is a wasteland with toxic air and scorched earth.
Death would be in a matter of minutes, even with protective gear. Their civilization had been in the silo for so long that the knowledge of what led them there had long since been forgotten. All they know is that the silo keeps them safe.
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The silo has many rules and regulations to keep peace and order and, for the most part, it works. Life in the silo is civilized and structured.
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People have occupations, food is grown and rationed, air is purified, waste is recycled, oil is pumped in from the reserves below, power is generated, population is controlled through strict birth control and a lottery for couples requesting a child, and different levels serve different functions to meet the needs of the people and the needs of the silo as a whole. But there is one rule that must never be broken: words that must never be spoken. These words are considered high treason. Sheriff Holston knows the rules.
The Wool Trilogy (Silo, #) by Hugh Howey
Three years before, his own wife was sent to clean. At the opening of Wool , Holston purposefully commits the same unforgivable sin that his wife had years before.
The next day, Holston is dressed in the special suit meant for cleaners and sent outside to clean the sensors, only to then wait for death as the toxic climate quickly erodes his suit. Now the silo needs a new sheriff and Juliette from mechanical, the lowest floor in the silo, has been chosen by the deputy and the mayor. All she wants to do is be able to keep her silo running from the bottom. The mayor and deputy begin the long walk up the flights of stairs, back to the top of the silo, a journey that takes many days.
But before they make it to the top, Mayor Jahns succumbs to poisoned water after a stop on the IT floor. Fortunately, Juliette has many friends in the silo and when she is shoved outside in a protective suit surreptitiously prepared by her friends, she discovers what IT has been hiding all along.
For Bernard, head of IT, all of his problems are about to be abated with this ritualistic cleaning. But something goes wrong. Juliette walks away and disappears from the sensors. As the secret ruler of the silo, he consults his catastrophe handbook.
An uprising is on the way. The world of the silo in Wool is structured as a caste society which is visually enforced with the ascending levels within the bunker. The more humble jobs with the least pay, back-breaking work and filthy living conditions can be found at the bottom in mechanical. Like Cinderella, Juliette is pulled from the soot, cleaned up and sent to the top — and she has plenty of friends with favors to play the fairy godmother role s. There is another main character in Wool.
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