Lies, secrets and fear buried in layers and layers of steel and concrete. This is a claustrophobic dystopia that is worse, in some ways, than 1984.

Written by:

Hugh Howey in 2012

Wool is the sort of post apocalyptic story that is both thought provoking and original. It’s not as mind twisting as Nineteen Eighty Four, but the future it describes is worse, because humanity itself has lost the freedom to walk in the sunlit grass or ponder the moonlit sky.

The book itself is an omnibus of five short stories, each portion written from the perspective of different characters who live in a giant metal and concrete silo, buried mostly underground due to the toxic post-apocalyptic environment outside. Many of the characters don’t live through each section. We begin with the shortest part of the book, a prologue as it were, from the point of view of Holston, the sheriff of the silo. A broken shell of the man he once was, after watching his wife dying outside, upon completion of the ritualistic cleaning of the silo’s cameras, which offer a bleak view of the brown, desolate hills surrounding the silo, punctuated only by the lonely skeletons of buildings in the distance.

We then follow a much larger cast of characters in the subsequent sections, Jahns and Marnes, the lady mayor of the silo and her trusted, and very much loved deputy sheriff respectively, old and tired of life and sending people out to their deaths. Their trip to find a new sheriff in Juliette, a feisty woman from the mechanical section, the deepest part of the silo, is initially triumphant, but ends in disaster. Juliette, her peers from the depths of the silo and their mission to break free of the silo’s lies and secret oppression form the backbone of the story, as the conspiracy is pick apart, piece by piece.

Even though the style of writing is easy and familiar, the story of each of the characters and their journeys toward discovering the silo’s secrets and the extreme methods used to keep them hidden, are engrossing. Even if you’re not going to think too much about what the message lies behind the book, the adventure and the allure of the truth and history behind the society of the silo is what makes this book so good. Captivating storyline aside, it will ask what your preference is: ignorance is power or the truth sets you free? Unfortunately, it appears that both will kill you, if you’re not careful.

In isolation, Wool is a brilliant book, which answers all the necessary questions, wetting your appetite for more. Hugh Howey has served up more, with a prequel, named Shift, which explores the why and how things are so dire on planet Earth and then a direct sequel, Dust, which completes the trilogy. These books may not be for everyone, it’s more cerebral and philosophical, but the silos are a great analogy for a test tube. If only they didn’t represent the hopes of all humanity…

Rating

Simply a brilliant read.

Should I read this?

On the proviso that you don’t mind a story being set in a very bleak and claustrophobic world, and you don’t exclusively read just for action, then get a copy!

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