April 29, 2013
Basically, something Very Bad has happened back in the day. So the surface of the Earth is now a WALL-E type post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with poisonous gasses.
Without giving too much away, all that seems to be left of humanity lives underground in a ginormous silo with over a hundred levels that have farms, apartments, mechanical engineers, IT, etc. There are only a few viewscreens to to outside world and as bleak as it is, people like to keep an eye on it. If someone goes loopy and breaks the taboo against mentioning the outside, they are deemed unfit to live among the rest of us and sent out for "cleaning," which means the are given a special suit to survive out in the elements for a brief time which they will spend cleaning the sensors outside to give the rest a clear view so they can keep watching for things to clear up out there. In however many hundred of years this has been going on not one of the cleaners has failed to do the cleaning before succumbing to the poisonous gasses.
If you are having a hard time of it after the second section, let me just say that the character of Juliette is the main character and is the main character until the so-called ending, which is clearly designed for more of the story to come. It's not clear from the first sections that she is the main character so that might help you get over a couple of depressing humps.
It's compulsively readable but the piecemeal way it was self-published online still leaves it with an episodic feel. Mr. Howey has also ignored one of Elmore Leonard's rules of writing which is "try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip." I found myself skipping a lot of detailed writing about mechanical work and walking up and down the steps of the silo (it's never made entirely clear why elevators can't be used).
Actually, along with the elevator thing, it's never made clear why these people aren't pasty, vitamin-D deficient mole people after hundreds of years away from the sun. Or how the air everywhere is poison except in an underground silo where they have all kinds of feats of mechanical engineering but no obvious sources of air or air filtration systems. It's also not clear why this is called "Wool." There's a bit of wool used to clean the sensors. There's a lady that knits at the beginning for metaphorical effect, but not with wool. There's a line about wool being pulled from our eyes. But I would have gone with Silo myself.
But the characters and the story are always the most important part of any piece of fiction and these were done well and made me read it pretty darn quick. It's not giving anything away to say that there are big Secrets and Lies and Juliette is finding out Not Everything is As It Seems. So she has to carefully uncover the Truth Behind the Lies at her own peril! There's conspiracy theorizing, a dash of romance and lots of surprises and pulse-pounding action and suspense.
It'll make a good movie someday, that's for sure. I hear Ridley Scott has the rights. Of course he's known for buying up the rights to all kinds of good things, then wasting his talents on junk like Prometheus so who knows if we'll ever see it. He owns the rights to The Forever War too and that would be way better in my humble opinion.
Wool is getting a lot of hype because of it's self published status. I don't really care about that. It was certainly an entertaining diversion. That's all I care about. I think it would have benefited from an editor, but maybe I'm just responding to the way he wrote it in episodes, then put it together as one novel. Either way, I'm giving it a good-not-great three out of five star review on Goodreads.