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Wool - engaging shadows

26 April 2015

Wool by Hugh Howey (Arrow: 2011) One of them all-popular dystopian future novels, the first in a trilogy. Something’s happened, and everyone lives in a silo, going up and down lots of stairs. But what happened? And who knows about it? And is it still happening? And other mysteries.


Mrs. GBR has been wanging on about this one for months. Kept telling me I’d enjoy it. So I went all in. I made it my main holiday read this year. Which is a goddamn risk, right? The holiday read needs to be brilliant, otherwise you feel you’ve wasted your holiday. At least that’s how I look at it. That’s how important it is to me.


And for the longest time, I was pretty cold towards this. It felt contrived, and full of hammed up characters lurching from cringe moment to cringe moment. There was a lot of meaningful pauses. It all felt a bit too much teen-thriller.


But then I got over myself a little, and started recognizing other stuff. Like the writing had flashes of colour and art. Like the fact I’d started to care about one or two of the characters. That when bad things happened, I had a corresponding bad feeling in my gut. And that I actually wanted to know the answers to the mysteries of the world Howey created.


Which is important. Too often, I roll my eyes at mysteries in books. Too often, I don’t care enough about the people and the plot to get gripped by the mystery too. Too often, stories fall flat because they’re nothing but the mystery. But Howey is imaginative and meticulous. He fills the book out with enough relationships, people, politics, and other plot tools. He gets you involved in the day-to-day, and earns the right to put things in the shadows that I ended up being desperate to find out about.


So yeah, I ended up pretty engaged with this. It had rough edges. It had moments of over-emotion, and times when Howey fell a little short on depth. But he got it right enough of the time.


For imagination, and completeness of vision, and sheer grip-ability, we end up with a...




I really want to find out what happens in the other two parts of the trilogy. But there’s almost definitely going to films of this, so I might just wait for that.


Interesting sidebar to Wool, it’s a bit of a poster child for self-publishing. See the story of how it ended up on book shelves here. Howey is a lucky bastard, and I’m not jealous at all. 


Next week, something psychedelic.


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© Gavin Collins