AUTHOR: HUGH HOWEY
Details: no. 1 Wool Trilogy
Received from Century
It is a very bleak future. The outside world is grey and lethal. And the relatively few people still alive live a very restricted life inside a huge Silo. Separated into functional groups (IT, Mechanics, Medical…) all living on separate levels of this small world, the survivors of a huge apocalypse long ago live their lives according to strict and ruthlessly enforced rules. Breaking the rules is not an option but in a world in which curiosity and asking questions constitute a break with the regulations there will always be some who can’t stop themselves from questioning the status-quo and voicing their doubts. Stating out loud that you are curious about the outside world and what lies at the other side of the hills will get you exactly what you are asking about though; a trip into the outside world. With the air outside still poisonous this is a one way journey nobody has ever survived. A one way journey with a dual purpose; get rid of those who question the established order and keep in check anybody else who might have questions about the life they’re forced to live.
When Juliette (Jules) is, reluctantly, recruited away from the depths of Mechanics to take up the job of Silo sheriff it isn’t long before she starts wondering about the fate of her predecessor. He went outside, voluntarily, but why? Did he want to die or did he think there was something out there worth taking the risk for? Almost unaware of what she is doing Jules is starting to break the rules and it isn’t long before she finds herself arrested, awaiting her own one-way trip outside. But this will be a trip with a difference. Jules may well be the last person to be forced to go outside the Silo, because her departure is about to change everything.
This book started of as a short story (Wool 1) which was self-published and subsequently established a huge following. I guess it was that reader-enthusiasm which encouraged the author to continue the story and write the subsequent four parts of this volume. And I can see why this story took off the way it did. Hugh Howey has created a claustrophobic, scary, fascinating and above all, realistic world in this book. The idea of a whole community, a small world really, living and functioning in one enclosed Silo spanning over 100 levels is mind-boggling. Having to live in an environment you can never leave, with rules stating that you can’t be curious, ask questions or show initiative is almost impossible to imagine. And yet, as you read this book, it almost seems normal. Because the author has built this world inside a Silo so very well it becomes easy to understand why most people would simply accept the rules. After all, the world is only what you can be aware of, and if anything outside the obvious boundaries is out-of-bounds, both literally and according to the regulations, accepting that world for what it is would be the easiest way to live your life. The author doesn’t go out of his way explaining why the fast majority of people inside the Silo accept life the way it is because he doesn’t have to. It is human instinct to steer clear of that which would kill you, and only a few would go against that instinct in the hope of finding something better. This is the story of those who go against their instincts; those who find that the questions are too big and important to ignore, regardless of the costs.
This book is very well written with a nice balance between explanations, descriptions, thoughts and action. It would have been easy to make this a story with very obvious distinctions between good and bad but thankfully the author didn’t fall into that trap. Those who are the heroes in this story aren’t all virtuous and those who are bad aren’t necessarily soulless bastards. All are victims of the Order, all have to survive inside the Silo and some deal differently from others. It is that simple in real life, and it is that simple in this book.
My only reservation, and it is a small one, is that telling this story required a lot of world-building. This takes the pace out of the story at times, especially early on in the book. Having said that, it is probably a price well worth paying; by the time the action takes over, the world and the characters have been established so well that it is impossible not to be invested in what will be happening next.
This is a wonderfully crafted story set in a fascinating dystopian world. Wool will grab your imagination and leave you wondering “what if” for days, if not longer. I’m looking forward to the rest of this story.