Saturday, January 12, 2013
Review: Wool Omnibus
4.5 Stars - Highly Recommended / for the cautious, curious, and malcontent
Publisher: Self published
When you look at Hugh Howey's Wool Omnibus sitting on the couch beside you, you think "whoa, how am I ever going to finish this brick?" A large and daunting presence in any review pile, I decided to tackle this monster during Christmas break, when I had 5 lounge-around-the-house-and-do-nothing-all-vacation days laid out ahead of me. I was feeling the beginnings of what soon developed into Strep Throat and wasn't moving off of the couch unless nature, or my stomach, called, so it seemed the perfect time to crack that spine and dive into things. (and for the record, I totally didn't crack the spine. I am not a book abuser. It's not in my nature. Actually, I don't think I am physically capable of cracking spines. Books or otherwise. I've tried. I start to break out in a sweat and my hands begin to shake as I force them to bend the book apart. I cringe and look away, and just. can't. do. it.)
I'm not ashamed to admit that Wool and I started off a little rocky. The first line - "The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death..." - felt strange, as if I'd just walked into the middle of story-time and had to scramble to figure out what the heck was taking place. Wait. Who was Holston? Why was he climbing to his death? What do they mean, climbing? Climbing what? Where the heck is he? Stop. Stop the story. I need to know.
I read on, just a few pages, then found myself flipping back to that first line and reading it all, all over again. I blame part of it on my being under the weather and not at my reading best. I blame the rest of it on good ole fashioned impatience. Because I hate not knowing things. I hate feeling like everyone (yes, even fictional characters) knows more than me. And I hate to wait. Little did I know that making one wait is what Wool is good at. Or that most of the characters would turn out to know a heck of a lot less than I did...
Wool is a self published author's dream. What began for Howey as a stand alone, self published novelette back in 2011 quickly grew into a five-part series as he worked to meet the demand of his readers. That five-part series was then optioned for film in 2012 and picked up by Random House for a hardcover release this month in the UK. Not too shabby for a book that started its life as a 49 page story about an undefined apocalyptic event that destroys the earth and forces its survivors to live underground, huh?
Over 140 levels below the surface of a ravaged earth, a society of people have managed to eek out a living that somewhat resembles our own within the concrete confines of the Silo. They work, they go to school, they eat, and they sleep. There are mechanics and IT personnel, doctors and nurses, farmers and couriers. Cameras, placed outside the Silo at ground level, project images of a nearby destroyed city inside its walls. It's the only contact these people have with the outside world. Rules have been put in place, everyone is expected to obey the laws of the Silo; the Mayor and her sheriffs are the enforcers, and all criminals are sent out to clean. To even speak of the outside can be grounds for banishment.
Fear of the outside keeps the people in line, keeps the peace, quiets the questions. The people have been locked away within the Silo for so long that none of them have ever known any other life. They wouldn't know what to question. There are rumors of past Uprisings. Of groups of people who rebel against the laws and demand to know what the Silo's government is hiding. Secrets that a select few appear to be protecting. But each time, the history books are wiped clean and somehow peace is always restored and the hush of normalcy returns.
Holston, the man who is climbing to his death at the start of Wool, has stumbled upon a secret and it has been eating him alive. And if you only read that first 49 page story, what you won't know, dear reader, is that we are witnessing the very beginning of the next Uprising...
Reminiscent in some ways of M. Clifford's The Book - another self-published novel that deals with a twisted, manipulative government and a futuristic, dystopian society of people - Wool worries at the frayed edges of man's sanity. How long will people allow themselves to be herded along like mindless sheep? Is man bound to repeat history when the past has been hidden from him? Can a powerful few ever truly keep mankind in check? Is the threat of death enough to stunt human curiosity?
Over the course of Wool Omnibus's 500+ pages, Howey toys with those very questions and tugs his readers down along the dark and difficult stairway of the Silo to discover the answers. And discovery came quickly to me, because I was barely able to put the book down after starting it. A quick paced, lightening fast read for those who are not content with waiting.
Whether you are a fan of the Wool series, dystopian novels, or self published literature, come join TNBBC between January 15th and January 30th, as we host Hugh Howey in a two week long discussion of those very things AND MORE.