I am definitely late to the party with this one – this book, not only with creating a dedicated place for reviews – but “Better late than never” is a saying for a reason.
I’ll get right into it because I’ve been itching to write this review since I was half-way through the book. Or should I say half-way through the series? Or is an Omnibus not a series per se?
This is the only confusion that Wool has left behind. As for how good the book is – there are no misunderstandings whatsoever. It was brilliant! The very few times I set aside the book in order to do something else were instantly regretted when I picked it back up. Especially as things finally started to unravel. But let’s not rush ahead.
Starting at the beginning, for those of you who might be even more behind on the Silo-hype (I don’t think that’s a real thing but who knows, I’m rather invested already) than I am, it all started with just the one story, the first of five that compile the Wool Omnibus, namely “Holston”.
We tune in on Holston’s last day as sheriff and first as a death-row prisoner – a fate he chooses himself, professing the highest taboo in the silo: He wants to go outside. Throughout the story, we get better acquainted with Sheriff Holston, learning more about his life, his now dead wife, and also a little bit of the history of the silo.
This story got me hooked like I didn’t expect. I still love the fact that it is very much a stand-alone piece, too. It was one of those short stories that make you look to the ceiling and sigh an audible sigh as you finish the last page, a story that leaves behind a little bit of tingling inside you.
Usually, at the end of such stories, I think to myself “Damn, I wish there was more to this story” and, in this case, there was. I only gave the ending of Holston a few moments to settle in before I turned the page.
The next four parts of Wool are more cohesive, going deeper into the story behind and beyond Sheriff Holston’s fate.
Early on, we understand that the people of the silo are The People. That is it. The outside is more than hostile, it’s unsurvivable, which is why people are born, live, and die in this huge underground complex. Spanning 144 floors, the silo is split into three sections called simply “the up top”, “the mids”, and “the down deep”. It’s almost a human version of an ant-farm – the different levels are connected via metal staircase spiraling top to bottom through the centre of the silo. It’s a challenging trek to get from the up top even to the mids, but in the second part, Proper Gauge, we follow the elderly Mayor Jahns as she undertakes a trip all the way to the down deep together with Holston’s deputy. In the days it takes them to reach the bottom third of the silo we learn more about how everything around there works – the mechanics, the politics, the laws, the social order and peculiarities of a people that lives entirely underground. Much like the ant-farm, everyone in the silo needs to do their part for the sake of the entire silo.
The story rapidly escalates when we meet Juliette, a.k.a. Jules – a talented mechanic from the down deep who makes a couple of exhausting trips from level 130-something to the up top and back again, ending up the next person in line to be “sent to cleaning” only a couple of weeks after Sheriff Holston was. The only spoiler I’ll give away is that the story does not end with Jules going outside.
There are lies, conspiracies, murders, and secrets mixed together in a dynamic, addictive cocktail of a read. It only gets more intense the more you learn about the dystopian future Hugh Howey describes with such ease and in such detail. I liked the fact that things like water and food supply has been given enough attention to show that this sort of life is indeed sustainable; production of all sorts of commodities is addressed subtly but effectively. I would say, the overall feel of the world of the silo is very well-formed and the characters are interesting and multidimensional. The only thing that took me a while to get the right image of was the spiral staircase and its shaft. I kept imagining a wide empty space with the stairs snaking along the wall on the outside of it, whereas it is actually meant to be wound around a pole right in the middle.
Nevertheless, I am well pleased with this book, and I’m already on the hunt for Shift (the hardcover is not as easy to find as I’d hoped). If you’ve read Wool and think I have not done it justice or am overselling it, you can tell me so in the comments. I never turn down a book discussion and welcome constructive comments.