When several different close friends of mine, all in different cities, started telling me that I just had to read Wool, a post-apocalyptic novel by Hugh Howey, I figured it must be something pretty special. They were right. It’s been several weeks since I finished the novel, but as I sat down to write this review, I recalled how this unique and moving story immediately pulled me into a wholly different world.
As the novel opens, a man named Holston is apparently on his way to some sort of death sentence, walking to a holding cell and being prepared for a mysterious process called “cleaning.” He thinks back to when his beloved wife, Allison, went through the same preparations three years ago. Just why Holston and his wife Allison were both subject to this extreme punishment is not immediately obvious.
Gradually, in those first chapters, the reader learns that Holston and his wife were both residents of “the silo,” a huge underground column that goes down over 200 stories. The silo is a wholly self-sustaining world, with farms, water treatment, a power station, and even its own oil reserves. Holston is the sheriff of the silo, working up on the 1st floor, at the very top, where residents can “see” the outside world projected on the walls like giant windows, thanks to a series of cameras mounted outside.
The view outside is a bleak one, mostly browns and grays, with some sort of toxic pollution swirling on the deadly winds and the remnants of destroyed buildings in the far distance. The people have lived in the silo for many generations now, ever since the outside world became too toxic to support life. Life inside the silo is heavily regulated in order to maintain order in a confined space, but most people are content with the routines of their every day lives.
That’s all I will say about the plot because there are so many surprises to discover in this unusual world. Howey has created a wholly unique, captivating setting populated with multi-dimensional characters who feel real. Contrary to many post-apocalyptic stories, this one takes place far into the future, long after the apocalypse, in a community where people live peaceful, normal lives…though, of course, all is not quite as it seems.
Wool is engrossing right from the beginning, with gripping suspense that will have you flying through the 500+ pages. My husband and I both loved it and can’t wait to read the next two books (yes, it is now a trilogy!) Just describing it here makes me want to read it all over again. It’s difficult to explain just how wonderful this book is without giving away too much of the plot, so I guess I will just have to tell you what my friends told me: you have to read this book.
508 pages, Simon & Schuster