Post-apocalyptic series does not pull 'Wool' over readers' eyes

Kathleen Duncan

April 17, 2013 at 4 p.m.
Updated April 16, 2013 at 11:17 p.m.

You live in a silo. Over a hundred floors that spiral down into the earth, accessible only by stairs that wind their way along the center of the city as it twists into the ground. No sunlight. No fresh air. Each floor exists for a different purpose. Farms, mechanical, living quarters, schools and more.

If you have days to travel, you can climb step-by-step to the top of the silo for a view of the outside world according to sensors that exist outside for this express purpose.

It is a dark, clouded, brown and barren place. You've heard that there used to be blue skies and green grass, but you can't imagine a world with color. It's probably just a myth, a children's story. If that world ever existed, it doesn't now.

"Wool," by Hugh Howey, is a post-apocalyptic existence where everyone must live by the rules set by the Order. If they don't, if they ask questions, if they wonder what is outside, then they might be given what they ask for.

Howey began "Wool" as a short story, which he self-published on Amazon. When it grew in popularity, he began to write and release more parts. Today, "Wool Omnibus Edition" contains Wool 1-5 of the Silo Saga with thousands of five-star reviews. Howey recently signed a print-only deal with Simon and Schuster to distribute "Wool," while he kept the e-book rights for himself.

When I first discovered "Wool" in a bookshop, I looked it up and discovered this unusual circumstance. Rarely has an author met with such success in self-publishing, selling millions of copies of his books by himself due to supportive readers and reviewers.

Forbes stated that until this deal, it was "unprecedented" for a publisher to buy print-only rights to publish a book, allowing the author to keep e-book rights.

That alone convinced me that this book must be worth reading. For a publisher to want any rights, even partial rights, just to be able to distribute it? I thought, here must be a hell of a story. And I was right. I read the first seven parts in two days.

Every part of "Wool" is as riveting as those that come before it. As you delve deeper into Howey's dark and twisted world, you chip away at the layers of lies that have trapped the remaining humans in the silo. Dying, surviving, fighting, by the rules of the Order.

As depressing as it is engrossing, "Wool" introduces us to a host of characters that we come to love, despise and watch with helplessness as they struggle amidst the havoc that occurs when a select few start to uncover the truth.

Sometimes, it takes only one - one person, one idea, one question, to destroy the fragile facade that the leaders of the Order have built around them all.

The "Wool" saga begins with Holston, the sheriff. Three years ago Holston's wife discovered something hidden in the computers she worked on. After digging deeper and asking questions, the day Holston wishes never happened finally comes to pass, she asks to go outside.

Once a person asks to go outside, their destiny is set. They are put in a holding cell, given a last meal and then they are sent outside, to clean.

Each cleaner is sent out in a protective suit. They use the wool they are provided with to wipe the sensors that provide those inside with their view of the outside world.

When they are done, they die as the infected air eats away at their suit and then their body. Yet every cleaner always cleans. Holston begins to wonder why.

The form of his wife has been laying on that hill for three painful years when Holston follows in her footsteps. He wants to learn the truth, so he, too, asks to go outside. This choice acts as a catalyst that begins the series with heartbreak, death and many, many questions.

This moment foreshadows the depths of evil that unravels as part of the "Wool" saga. Every time a new secret is uncovered, we despair yet again.

But, of course, there could be no shadows without light. There are bright characters that inhabit each emotional story. Those who are stubborn and fight for what is best for humanity and those that protect each other save each other and try to do what is right.

These characters give us hope through their sheer stubbornness and desperate survival, that people might someday find a way back into the world as it should be.

Maybe someday the sky will be blue again, and maybe, there will still be people around to see it.



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