Review – Wool by Hugh Howey

By | March 2, 2013

I really don’t read science fiction, but there was something about the description of this book that attracted me – and Ridley Scott apparently – and I’m so glad it did.  How about this for an opening line:

The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death: he could hear them squealing as only happy children do.

From that point on I was absolutely hooked, immersed in this post-apocalyptic world, and felt a real sense of loss when I emerged at the other end after a thoroughly satisfying ending to what was originally five linked books.

The setting is a vast underground silo, in which the survivors of whatever disaster forced them to be there live their ordered lives.  Their environment is vividly drawn – a breathtaking number of floors from the top with its view of the devastated outside world to the engineering depths which keep the silo running, with everything conceivable in between from farms to graveyards via the sinister floors of IT, all linked by a stairway so deep that it takes days to travel. This is a self sufficient and ordered society, with a rigid social structure, overseen by a mayor and a law-keeping force.  And the punishment for serious transgression is to be sent outside, to clean the sensors and to die. The whole environment is the product of a tremendous imagination, and I believed in it totally.

Added to that, the drawing of the characters is exceptional.  Holston, the disillusioned sheriff, carries the first book and is succeeded by Juliette, a “mechanical” from the lower levels with a complex past. But there is a vast cast of characters through this book: all of them live and breathe and have their own stories and motivations.  And, apart from the world itself which is a wonderful creation, it was the characterisation that drew me in and made me love it. This is a world full of people who love and hate, and laugh and cry. 

The pace of the story is superb – full of intrigue and excitement, and twists and turns that had my heart in my mouth. And the writing is excellent – nothing less could have kept me hooked for 576 pages. I discovered and loved Justin Cronin’s The Passagelast year, a similar departure from the comfort zone of my usual reading: Hugh Howey’s Wool thoroughly lives up to the comparison, and I’d recommend it to anyone who feels up to the challenge of something so refreshingly different.  There are three prequels now available, now all sitting on my Kindle and eagerly anticipated.

My thanks to netgalley and Random House for providing the e-book for review.

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2 thoughts on “Review – Wool by Hugh Howey

  1. Marie Monaghan

    I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this – I also loved The Passage last year and like you, it's not necessarily the type of book I would usually go for. I'm going to wait till I've got a few days off to lose myself in this (and also The Twelve!).

  2. Anne Williams

    Definitely one to lose yourself in Marie – this and The Passage have made me realise how confining it is not to read outside your comfort zone. I really loved it.

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