I haven’t posted in quite a while, but I wanted to start off a new round of posts starting with my Wool Omnibus review.
Wool Omnibus is a series of related novellas compiled by the author, Hugh Howey. Wool paints a painful dystopian future, character driven tale spun with many twists and turns along the way.
Let’s set the stage, shall we?
In the future, man-kind has been driven into giant silos to protect them from the hostile ravaging environment that rages outside the giant viewscreen in the top-level cafeteria. To survive, people have formed different castes based upon their jobs led by a mayor that oversees everything inside of the silo. The rules are simple, follow the rules, do your job, don’t have children outside of the “lottery” and don’t question what is happening outside of the silo. The silo is your life.
Wool first introduces to Holston, the sheriff of Silo 18. Holston is a good man, trying to do his best to keep the peace in the 100+ levels of the underground silo and struggling with the death of his wife, Allison. Holstons’ wife was sent to “clean” the viewscreen outside, a death sentence, three years previous to the start of the book. In the three years since her death, Holston attempted to voluntarily clean, and finally takes it upon himself to investigate why she was sent out to clean. His questions and investigations lead to even more questions until Holston himself questions the very reality of the life he lives.
And that’s just the start of it. The investigation/personal crusade that Holston starts drives the rest of the series of Wool and introduces us to even more important characters as the book(s) unfold. The Silo series starts with Wool, transitions into Shift and ends with Dust (more to be seen if there are more books in Dust).
Hugh Howey has drawn a colorful (or colorless depending on the setting) world. Thousands of people crammed together, following a life where the biggest dream allowed is to raise a family and have a child. Life is a constant balancing act of trying to survive between birth and death. The tenuous thread of a circular stairwell that rises from the depths of Mechanical, passes through the Mids and peaks in the Up Top is the only thing that holds these thousands of lives together.
Through his simple prose, Howey paints this picture in bits and pieces, presenting you the lives led by Holston and the others. The continual struggle to live held in check by the caustic world outside where those who question the status quo are sent outside to die. Every year a criminal is selected to clean the cafeteria viewscreen, the only view of the outside world. Howey uses that same symbology as he unravels the mystery of Silo 18, slowly scraping away the dirt to show us behind the scenes of what drives this world.
The characters are compelling and all have their virtues and flaws. But above it all is the constant reminder of the human condition and the power of hope. In Wool, hope is a dangerous thing. Curiosity can be deadly. The characters in Wool are rarely transparent and none are one-dimensional caricatures. Holston, the tortured sheriff who wants to find out what happened to his wife. Juliette, the mechanic-turned-sheriff who questions what she sees around her as she starts to put the clues together. Lukas, the man who sits in the cafeteria at night and sees the stars and dreams of what they are. Solo, introduced in the later part of the Wool Omnibus, the eccentric survivor who has lived 34 years alone. They all come together in Wool, their lives and their struggles laid out before us, story lines intertwining into a mystery as deep as the Silo.
Any fan of dystopian futures will love Wool. The setting is perfectly setup as a great mystery novel combined with action and suspense. I’d almost call Wool “genre-breaking” but the book really combines many elements into a novel that sets itself apart through great storytelling and world-building.
Wool Omnibus directly leads into the second set of books, Shift, which I will talk about in a different article. Thankfully, if you’ve not read Wool yet, Shift and Dust have all been published so you won’t have to wait years to find out what happens through the story. Lucky for me, I didn’t know Shift existed until a week before Dust was published.
So zip up your coveralls and look out the viewscreen at the world outside. But don’t ask questions!