Wool is a collection of five books concerning the citizens of a mysterious “silo”, who live in vertically-organized communal comfort with maintenance floors deep down, hydroponic gardens and nurseries in the middle, the IT department higher up, and the mayor, sheriff, and airlock at the very top.
Outside, the air is toxic and dangerous, and the only view most citizens get is through cameras pointing at the outside world. These cameras are cleaned regularly by criminals exiled to their deaths, mainly for the crime of expressing a wish to see what the outside world is like – their punishment is simply to be given what they want. (It is an interesting fact, however, that no criminal, however upset or angry, ever fails to clean the cameras before dying.)
A sheriff’s wife, working on a process for retrieving deleted files, uncovers evidence that there is information hidden from the average citizen, secrets about the world outside their safe haven. Her discoveries drive her to apparent madness, and she is sent to cleaning; her husband, heartbroken, follows her some years later. But their deaths, and the appointment of a new sheriff from “deep down” in Maintenance, lead to a chain of events that might spark a new and dangerous uprising – or might lead to the truth finally being exposed. But what is the truth? What is IT hiding beyond the silo’s view? And can the new sheriff stop the silo from imploding in warfare and death, or being buried alive in lies?
This is a marvelously chilling and beautifully-written series, set in a post-apocalyptic world that lives and breathes. Howey does a magnificent job of bringing the Silo to life, with all the petty politics and social customs that any insulated human society would be bound to develop. His scene-setting is richly textured and detailed, providing a clear sense of the world he describes. The moral conflicts are thought-provoking and realistic, arising intelligently from basic human nature, with neither side having a monopoly on goodness or evil.
Characters are vividly drawn and three-dimensional, with even the villains provided with sound motivations and rational reasons for their actions. The reader sees the story through multiple eyes and multiple minds, giving it additional depth and color as well as allowing us to sympathize with different perspectives, even those we are led to ultimately reject. Juliette in particular is a tough, intelligent heroine with a real sense of her duty to protect those in her care, and the reader can root for her without reservation.
The story unfolds itself in a series of revelations that build on each other, increasing the story’s intensity and building reader interest with every new discovery and every secret learned. The resolution is deeply satisfying while still leaving room for more exploration in further books.
This book should definitely be read in the omnibus version, as the stories play into and feed off of each other in deeply intertwined ways – reading the stories separately would deprive the underlying tale of half its power. However, this is not much of a hardship, if any, as the book is incredibly hard to put down once you’ve picked it up.
If you enjoy thought-provoking, intelligent post-apocalyptic fiction well spiced with action and suspense, you will appreciate this series. It is a fine, well-written story (or set of stories), and deserves the thoughtful reader’s attention.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader