Review of “Wool” by Hugh Howey

This [non-YA] post-apocalyptic dystopia is excellent, and is, in my estimation, deserving of both its many high ratings and its optioning by Ridley Scott for a film adaptation.

The story takes place inside a huge underground silo that goes down 144 stories, with only the very top level having a view of the outside, which is nothing but a desolate landscape. Different professions are assigned to the different levels, which include farms, living quarters, supplies, mechanicals, and the all-important IT tech area. The silo has a mayor, sheriff, and a number of deputies throughout the structure. Porters travel up and down the silo steps to make deliveries. Order is maintained by means of assigning “cleanings” to those who break the law: these people are ejected from the silo and told to scrub the camera lenses to the outside before they invariably die from the poison air. No one really knows why these exiles always perform the cleaning, especially since almost every new cleaner vows not to do it.

The “cleanings” are not protested by the silo’s denizens; on the contrary, they are celebrated, because every time someone dies naturally or is banished, a lottery is held so that young couples can vie for the right to have a child. After all, there is only so much room in the silo.

Detail from Wall St. Journal rendition of a silo by Mike Sodal

Detail from Wall St. Journal rendition of a silo by Mike Sodal

As the story begins, the sheriff, Holston, actually volunteers to go out and do the next cleaning (in essence, a suicide mission). The previous cleaning took place three years before, when his wife was ejected from the silo, and he has never really recovered. After Holston leaves, the mayor – a warm and independent woman – needs to appoint a new sheriff, and goes against the wishes of the head of IT (who seems to have a strong power base of his own), to pick Juliette Nichols, age 34, from the mechanical department. “Jules” is smart, popular, hard working and full of initiative. When Jules gets up to the top of the silo to take over the job, she is determined to find out why Holston decided to commit suicide now after three years of mourning for his wife. Her investigations set off a number of revelations and reactions that rock the world of the silo, and convince Jules to embark on a project “to pull the wool back from everyone’s eyes….”

Not all of the secrets are revealed; this book is the first of a series. But the story does wind up, and you can feel satisfied with reading only this first book. But I don’t think you won’t want to go on; I couldn’t wait to start the next book in the series!

Evaluation: For those who loved the MacGyver hero of The Martian, the female heroine of this book is just as awesome, and the story is more consistently interesting. It’s a thought-provoking page turner that is surprising and devastating in its realism.

Note: The blurbs on the cover make it sound like a “horror” novel which is why I avoided it for so long. It is nothing of the kind, except in the sense that dystopias sometimes are when they seem too plausible. But there is nothing “Stephen-King-esque” about this book at all. It is just a good post-apocalyptic scenario, with lots of action, suspense, and skillful development of memorable characters.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013

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About rhapsodyinbooks

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11 Responses to Review of “Wool” by Hugh Howey

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I’ve heard a lot about this book since it started out self published but really had no idea what it was about. I don’t read a lot of dystopia but you’ve made this one sound good to me. I wonder why they don’t have elevators in the silo.

  2. Caroline says:

    I’m very glad for this review because I saw it so many times at the book shop but was really not sure. I’ll give it a try now.

  3. Ti says:

    I thought I had this one but I have WOLF not WOOL. I tried to request it from the library for my Kindle but there is no Kindle version. WTH?

    • Ti, there is a Kindle version. For a long time, it was the only version. 😉 The author is famous for his dedication to keeping Wool self-published on Kindle on Amazon so that a publisher can’t jack up the price….go take a peek on Amazon or BN. The price is something like $1.99. That’s the author keeping it that price on purpose to make it accessible for everyone. 😀

  4. Sounds excellent! Did the Wall Street Journal just mock up that diagram? It’s not something that came with the book? I’m very impressed with their design staff if so!

  5. aartichapati says:

    My friend gave me this book (an omnibus edition – are there multiple in the series?) for my birthday! I must get aroudn to reading it 🙂

  6. Heather says:

    I am kind of over dystopias but this one sounds really intriguing … hmm.

  7. Trish says:

    You had me until first in a series. Bah. I think Outlander is the *only* series I’ve read since blogging that has kept my interest. Or maybe I’ll just need to wait until the subsequent books are out. I did chuckle when you mentioned a more consistently interesting The Martian. I did have waning attention when listening to that one.

  8. litandlife says:

    My husband heard Howey talking on NPR a while back and has been at me to read one of his books for a while. Sounds like he writes a book well worth picking up.

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