In June, while I sat in the LA airport reading, Joel was in Portland at Powell’s Books, where he picked up a copy of Wool. The next day, since I’d finished my book on the plane and needed something new to read, I ordered a copy of The Passage, not knowing about Joel’s purchase the day before.
When the package came from Amazon, I tore it open excitedly and showed Joel my new book. He was surprised. I asked why. Well, here’s what Amazon recommends for people who enjoyed The Passage.
And what they recommend for people who enjoyed Wool.
We’re not a particularly romantic couple, but there are times like this when we’re on the exact same wavelength and I am sure we’re perfect for each other.
… That was a very long lead in to a post that actually has little to do with our relationship, other than the fact that we’ve taken to saying “you should read XYZ book when I’m finished with it. I think you’ll like it.”
I finally got around to reading Wool a couple weeks ago, and both Joel and Amazon were right in predicting I’d enjoy it.
It takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, where Earth’s atmosphere has turned too toxic to support life, and the remaining population lives in an underground structure called a silo. It’s hard to describe the plot without giving too much away, because Howey introduces some plot twists in even the earliest chapters, but here’s what I will say: Wool contains all the necessary elements of a good dystopian tale. There’s a class system, access to knowledge is forbidden, technology has been used against people, and – of course – an uprising.
What I Liked
Wool is a highly engaging, plot driven story. It’s a page turner. In fact, I tore through its 600 or so pages in just a couple of days – the last couple of books I read were heavy and character driven, so it was a nice break to sit down with something that’s fast paced and still smartly written.
I say smartly written for two reasons: one, the dystopian world of the silo turns out to be more complex than it first appears, and the complexities are well thought-out. Howey reveals a little at a time and in just the right order, so that I always knew there was more coming and was eager to keep reading to learn more. The other is that Howey cleverly wove wool (as in, the fiber) (and yes, I’m making a pun) into the story – there are wool cleaning pads used by those banished to the outside world; one character is a knitter and uses wool yarn; and the little reveals of the dystopian world bring to mind the phrase “to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.” These little references are minor and not important to the plot, but they make it obvious just how painstakingly Howey thought through this story, which makes me want to read closely to make sure I can notice and appreciate those little details.
What I Didn’t Like
One of the things that drives me crazy as a reader is when an author introduces a character, I become invested in them – their intentions, their story – and then that character is killed off. It’s a pet peeve of my mom’s that I inherited, because once she pointed it out to me, I started noticing it everywhere! Way too many authors use this, even though it’s manipulative and not very good writing. Howey does this more than once.
On a related note, one of the deaths has a “whodunnit” quality, and while it’s implied who was responsible, it’s never said outright so we never get the satisfaction of the killer being found out or confessing to his (or her!) misdeeds.
I recommend Wool if you’re looking to read a good dystopian novel.
One of the things that’s been mentioned in nearly every review I read of this novel (as well as in Howey’s author bio) is that it was originally a self-published e-book, which was eventually published by Simon and Schuster based on the success of the e-book. It proves how much fun this is to read – enough people told their friends about the book that eventually it went on to be a bestseller. That said, Joel actually had a difficult time finding a copy (and is continuing to have to hunt for the remaining books in the saga.) Powell’s seems to be the only brick and mortar store selling it.
Howey has since written two more installments, called Shift and Dust.
Here’s a link to the Publisher’s Weekly review.