By Hugh Howey
Simon & Schuster
March 2013, $15.00, PB; $26.00 HC
Reviewed by Darkeva
If you haven’t already encountered the massive hype surrounding Hugh Howey’s dystopian sci-fi novel, Wool, the online world is abuzz about the remarkable story of the author who self-published the book then managed to sell print-only rights to Simon and Schuster and to keep his e-book rights, something that’s unheard of, especially for an indie author with no known previous track record.
Like Amanda Hocking before him, Hugh Howey has become the next big publishing sensation, but it remains to be seen whether his book will sell as many print copies as it has already sold in e-book units. He has garnered and continues to garner a fair amount of critical praise, and with good reason.
With shades of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series of books, Wool has created a dystopian sci-fi universe that takes place for the most part inside a silo that makes 1984 seem liberating in comparison. There has been an uprising that led to civilization as the principal characters know it, living permanently indoors in a silo from which there is no escape. The outside world kills humans—the air contains poisonous material that destroys them. People need a ticket for permission to have children, but it can pass them over and go to another couple, which means one of them must die in order for that child to be born. Death comes in even worse circumstances.
The novel has its share of philosophical moments, as well, amid the post-apocalyptic circumstances. Although we’re introduced to the sheriff of the silo in the first section, we move on to the protagonist, Jules, a hard-working, no-nonsense worker who, like very few others before her, discovers that there’s far more to the one uprising than everyone in the silo knows about. There have been multiple uprisings, and the ones running the silo have been going back and deleting files to keep the residents of the silo in darkness. Although she is strong-willed and absolutely a survivor, she’s also a sympathetic main character and very admirable in the face of so much injustice. Most readers will find it easy to get behind this underdog and root for her to win.
Wool presents an interesting story that has a universal appeal and transcends the usual genre restrictions so that even people who aren’t sci-fi fans will enjoy the story. It’s not just another purely plot-driven page-turner with corny cliffhanger chapters and contrived elements. Rather, Wool presents a captivating story. In this case, the hype is justified.
Wool has all the makings of a summer blockbuster, but a clever one with a story that makes the reader think, and it’s no surprise that Ridley Scott has optioned the film rights, because he’s the most well-suited director to bring this story to new life on the big screen.