This is an attempt at a quick book review of the Wool Omnibus (Wool 1-5) edition, written by Hugh Howey.
The Wool indie book series is quite the find. And I’m not the only one whose found this story to be a fascinating read. It would seem it’s a good enough read to be considered for a movie. That’s if Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian are successful at securing the story rights.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’ve been trying to find decent books to read that fall within the genre of sci-fi that are engaging and fun action reads. I just got down with The Forever War and the Wool Omnibus fulfilled that void, at least while it lasted.
The Omnibus is the collected volume of Hugh Howey’s five book series titled Wool. It first appeared in July of 2011 as a short story but then readers seemed to go crazy wanting more, and Hugh put out four more short stories to fill out the story. And oh, what a story.
As Hugh describes the Wool series,
“This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.”
That seems simple enough, but don’t get too comfortable with Wool.
If you can imagine a society that, because of the outside environment, has been relegated to living in a huge construct of a silo, like a human ant-farm. Every aspect of life is taken care of within this silo. It has to, because the world outside is a hostile, caustic one where stepping out into the atmosphere will kill you in no short order.
But the silo citizens can watch the outside world through external cameras and keep track of how things are out there. But every now and then, those cameras need maintenance. They need their lenses cleaned. Or as the residents call it, “a cleaning.”
And that’s not a good thing.
Cleanings are reserved for those who commit grievous crimes or start to get loopy and think they can do better on the outside. For that, the installed governmental regime or system had put together this program where they take the criminals or the crazy, put them in suits specifically designed for the task of going outside, and supply them with the tools necessary to clean the lenses of the cameras.
The odd part about this entire process is, that no matter what the cleaner says before going out, everyone to a tee, no matter why they’ve been sent out on their one-way trip, always cleans the camera lenses. It’s pretty confounding to everyone, including this reader.
But they at least get their wish, as they’re set on their one-way journey. They clean the lenses and then start walking, in the hopes they can get somewhere before the atmosphere rips at their environmental suits.
Whether they get one of fifty feet or more on their short journeys is completely up to them. Though the fascinating aspect to this entire process is that when you’re inside, looking out, you can see the memorial-like mounds of what’s left of previous cleaners. Just saying. It’s a quirky mystery!
And therein lies the story. Or at least the start of it. The rest of the Wool Omnibus rocks.
We’re tempted with past uprisings that no one really knows about… except that they seem to happen. We’re tempted with so many potentials it’s crazy, but keep something in mind: Be quick on your literary feet.
Hugh Howey fills this book with wonderfully expressive detail that takes no prisoners when it comes to setting the scene, from the environment to the mindset of our characters. He touches on things that you might be thinking of in that same situation, but then you think, hey, that’s pretty insightful to know that.
But these moments of detail also can kill you because more often than not, they’re used to build a horrendous amount of tension because Hugh likes to mess with our minds and keep us waiting while we build to moments of revelation or an immediate resolution of that moment’s plot… each time. Grr.
But for the first time in my life, I’ve said “Whoa!” or “Oh my god!” out loud, from reading a book. That’s because the characters yank you right in and it’s from all that damned, deeply detailed style of Hugh’s.
But Wool is a wonderful read and if you like dystopian futures where Disneyland goes berserk and infects the… Sorry, scratch the Disneyland reference. I’m messing with you there.
Wool is a good book.
Oh… almost forgot… I can’t say much about this without giving spoilers away, but Hugh keeps you on your toes. Be prepared. Things you think are set in stone, become dust in the wind. Things that you just start wrapping your mind around and accepting as part of the story, well, don’t get too attached. No matter how much tape you use to secure a thought, it will still slip away from you.
Whether he does it once or fifty times, I can’t tell you. That’s for you to discover. But he definitely keeps you engaged and worried about characters and settings.
When I finished the Wool Omnibus, I started to panic and go into withdrawals, knowing that for the moment, this story, my story has come to a close. (Did I mention Hugh mucks with your head? About what, 17, 18 or 50 times? Eh, I’ve lost track, but I believe I made my point. Right?)
I headed right out to Amazon and found that there’s a 6th book of his “Silo Series” titled First Shift – Legacy. It’s a prequel. I just started it but I presume that it will be just as good as Wool, if not better, since now, I get some answers.
BUT… word of warning: Don’t buy the prequel book first. Read the first series. Be mystified first, then, go get some answers. And yes, almost right away, the title will make sense.