Friday, 26 July 2013

Wool by Hugh Howey (review)

Rating: 4, Highly Recommended
Source: Copy provided by Random House via NetGalley (thank you!)

An epic story of survival at all odds and one of the most anticipated books of the year.

In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo.

Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies.

To live, you must follow the rules. But some don't. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others with their optimism.

Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside.

Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last.

Read my review after the jump!

Wool was originally recommended to me by my boyfriend, he’d listened to the audiobook, enjoyed it, and thought that as it ticked a few of my book-boxes (Strong female lead? Check. Dystopian world? Check.), I might enjoy it too. So when I saw it on NetGalley I decided to see if the lovely people at Random House would lend me a copy, and fortunately for me, they did!

I say fortunately because, much to the relief of my boyfriend, let’s call him L, I really did enjoy it! Obviously as soon as L heard I was reading it, he immediately started worrying that I wouldn’t like it, and then would blame him or accuse him of not knowing me well enough to recommend books to me, or something that no girlfriend has ever actually done except in the realms of Hollywood films filled with neurotic stereotypes that don’t actually exist. Hmm, rant over.

Well, almost over, because I think Wool is the perfect book to dispense with one tired excuse that dozens of male writers seem to come up with when people (aka women) complain that they don’t have enough women characters in their stories. That excuse is: “I just don’t know how to write women. I don’t understand them, it’s not my fault, they’re crazy, alien creatures who do things that make no sense to my manly brain, aaaaargh.” Well male writers, go home, buy/download Wool and then read. Because as far as I can tell from a brief internet search, Hugh Howey is a real-life man (unlike those other men that are actually a cover for J.K. Rowling), and he has somehow managed to create a believable, capable, independent female character, called Juliette (or Jules). SHOCKER. And do you know how he has done this magical, incredible thing? He wrote a character, an interesting, conflicted character, who also happens to have a womb. Groundbreaking, I know.

Surprisingly enough, not only has Howey managed to write interesting characters (shout out to Shirly, Walker, and Lukas who I also really liked), he has also put them in a world that is interesting, alien and yet familiar at the same time. What I liked most about the Silo-setting I think, is that it seemed so believable. The descriptions of the mechanics that keep it going sound really real, and... earthy? As in, they don’t feel like crazy futuristic technology that has led to Earth’s downfall, instead it’s plain old humans that have created this wasteland.

I won’t say much more about the plot because the slow-reveal of how the Silo came to exist, and what has kept it that way, is gripping to read, and kept me turning the pages faster and faster. One of my few criticisms would be the (for me) entirely superfluous use of Romeo and Juliet. Juliette, one of the main characters, is named after Shakespeare’s Juliet, and during one section of the book each chapter is prefaced by a quote from one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Which is fine, I’m a fan of his, but I thought it just weighed the book down, imbuing it with an extra subtext that wasn’t needed.

If you like sci-fi and dystopian fiction, and/or strong female characters, then Wool is definitely worth picking up. I’m going to be keeping my eye out for a copy of the sequel, Shift, which is out already, and is followed by Dust, which comes out in August.

So have you read Wool? What did you think?

- Caroline

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