“My life is too tight, he wanted to say. My skin is too tight. The walls are too tight.”
– Hugh Howey, Wool
I am embarrassed to admit that I have had this book on my shelf since 2012 when Howey was in Australia touring for Wool. I was lucky enough to meet him through the bookstore I was working in and had my copy signed. It was an interesting buy for me (purchased before I knew he was coming for a signing). For some reason, I bought it knowing that I didn’t really like science fiction. What began as a sixty-page short story has now earned Howey millions of downloads and book sales for his trilogy now completed by Shift and Dust.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading Wool! After the plethora of dystopian fiction that followed the success of The Hunger Games (and having read quite a lot of it), I felt as though I fell into the post-apocalyptic world quite easily. The inhabitants of the silo are removed from the outside world after a human action poisoned the air and damaged the natural world beyond repair. They are the descendants of the lucky few who survived although they now live an enclosed life of rules, regulations, secrets and lies.
Howey appears to take pleasure in the conventions of dystopian fiction. The novel begins with the death of Holston, the current Sherriff. He chooses to leave the silo, to be sent outside for ‘cleaning’, the act of removing the grime from the lenses that show the life beyond the silo walls. Every death is rewarded with the drawing of the lottery, the chance to create a new life. Every aspect of life in the silo is controlled. Everything needed to sustain life is produced within the various levels of the silo. Divided into three sections, the class system is strictly monitored; the working class in the bowels of the building are colour-coded, IT and Systems are positioned in the ‘mids’ and are the heart of the building and the professionals dominate the upper levels. The rules are unbreakable and the effects are chilling. The speed at which characters were lured to the idea of suicide rather than deal which the punishment they faced spoke volumes – the desire to control ones own life and outcomes; to die on your own terms rather than at the hand of another.
The greatest pleasure for the readers of dystopian fiction is being in a position of power over the characters in the novel. We know what the modern world is like and therefore have the knowledge that the characters seek – an idea of what life was like before. It is this need for knowledge and a hope for the future that is the downfall of our characters. Holston, Mayor Jahns and Juliette each see the truth behind the lies and see a need for change.
I really enjoyed everything about this book – the setting was grand yet claustrophobic, the characters had equal parts of curiosity, smarts and strength and the plot moved at an exciting pace without getting swept away.
The next book club book to be discussed from the 12th of January is The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton!
Over to you – what did you think about Wool by Hugh Howey?