When a book features a blurb from Justin Cronin, author of the massive dystopian masterpiece The Passage, I’m ready to read. Cronin says of Wool, “Howey’s WOOL is an epic feat of imagination. You will live in this world.” And he is for serious, as this book is the real thing.
I discovered Wool via an article on Howey’s underground success, and found I could download the first Part in the series for free for my Kindle through Amazon. The book is broken into small easily consumable parts, short-story length interconnected tales of a future in which humans live in an underground silo. I read Part One quick, and purchased Parts 1-5 right away. This is everything that makes scifi worth reading: the commentary on our social structures; exploration of our weird rituals and lore in societies; the struggles for control over knowledge, material wealth, and power in social systems. I think this will be the new Hunger Games, a series that gets non-readers reading. It is simple to understand and draws you in quick.
Wool – Part One blew my mind right away. It reminded me a bit of how sucked in I was by the first chapter of Ender’s Game, called Third, when I read that for the first time in my childhood. In the chapter Ender gets his monitor removed and brutally beats Stilson to prevent future bullying. I thought it was so crazy the way Orson Scott Card drops in Ender’s age near the end – “Ender knew the unspoken rules of manly warfare, even though he was only six.”
That first part of Wool was so intriguing that it really brought me back to that Ender’s Game level of interest – I was dropped into this dystopian world, and right away I could see it all happening, all the rituals and beliefs and fears and concerns of these new people made so much sense to me. I feel like the greatest science fiction I’ve read doesn’t stop to explain itself to the reader, it just lets the story play out while the reader watches from the sidelines and picks things up as the story goes along.
The concept of Wool, humans living in a silo underground, is one that has such a sweeping amount of plot to play with. I’m always so interested in the myths and rituals and culture that build up in a society not like our own, and what these things say about our own culture. I love the development of an entire world after ours in dystopian fiction (The Passage does such a great job of this, as does Oryx and Crake), and this book definitely leaves room to create a history of a people. There are questions of maintaining power and control within the silo, and, without giving too much away, the daunting prospects of the entire world outside the silo’s safety. And above all this, the constant sense of claustrophobia that comes with containment.
A group of people in an enclosed space always makes for interesting fiction – think of Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I love cozy mysteries, and some of my favorite cozies take place in enclosed areas. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie takes place on an island during a storm, so guests are stranded. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny takes place in an isolated monastery, where the monks have little contact with the outside world and must be reached by boat or plane. Science Fiction as a genre has a great opportunity to play with this tension by building situations where people are stuck together in enclosed spaces.
I’m excited to read the next part in the Wool series, called Shift. I’m trying to put it off a bit for now, as I know I’ll just compulsively read it once I kindle it and get nothing else done in my life.