on February 9, 2012
I am a long time science fiction reader and have read many wonderful stories that are based on science, technology, engineering and math. A few years ago I purchased a Kindle and it has opened up opportunities for me to read more with less effort and at less expense. I now have over two hundred science fiction books listed in my archives. Four days ago, I purchased the Wool Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey. I finished it about an hour ago. This is the first review that I have ever been inspired to write about any book.
Some reviewers say that they cannot put a book down, once they get started into it. I have not understood this compulsion until last night, for the first time I had a hard time sleeping. I stopped reading sometime after midnight at a point in the book that left me anxious about the main character and was unwilling to disturb my wife by turning the light on or getting out of bed to pick up where I had left off. It takes a powerful piece of work to make me worry over what I know is fiction.
One small note to other authors that might be reading this review, part of what makes Wool a joy to read is the lack of grammatical and spelling errors of so many of the self published books. It is an extreme annoyance and distraction to me to read sentences in a book that I must stop, and reread substituting words that I think the author meant to understand the idea being communicated. Please take the time, your time or the time of others, to critically review your writing and fix these sentences that act as stumbling blocks for the reader on the journey you want to share with them. I and suspect many other readers would be willing to pay more for a book without grammatical and spelling errors.
I suspect this collection of a continuing story is going to become a classic. For many years now I have read and reread Foundation by Isaac Asimov and Dune by Frank Herbert along with other classics. This omnibus has the same deep commitment to the development of the characters and their feelings as they are caught up in a series of events that shape their future in an uplifting way from darker times. It is not complicated by a large cast of characters, like some series feel is necessary, but the few characters it does have are intertwined with one another and others in their society in a common journey through their lives.
I would highly recommend this to others, because I am sure that I will be rereading this story again and again.
on April 30, 2012
First, the negatives.
Okay, now to the positives. The plot, the characters, the ideas, the writing... All amazing. The author has created something truly great here. I had never read anything by Hugh Howey before, but based solely on this omnibus edition of "Wool", he has been added to my personal top 5 list of sci-fi authors.
This is truly immersive story-telling, with well-developed, complex, believable characters, amazingly descriptive prose, jaw-dropping plot developments, deep concepts, and one kickass storyline. The last book that impressed me so thoroughly was "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons. "Hyperion" had a more mystical quality, wheras "Wool" is somehow more gritty and real. Both are examples of superior science fiction.
I am so happy to have discovered "Wool"... It has revived in me a love of reading that I thought I'd lost. Thank you, Hugh Howey.
on February 10, 2012
I read over a hundred books a year. All genres. I don't give a 5 rating lightly. For me a 4 can be something great. A 5 is something that is great and stays with me long after I read it. This will stay with me. I was there with the characters and in that silo from the first few pages. I could feel every emotion, frustration, and even the physical sensation of being dizzy and tired from the trips through the silo. The story kept building and I wanted to know everything and couldn't put it down. Truly superior writing and storytelling. I can honestly say it was one of the best things I've ever read and makes what I thought were some pretty good books seem terrible now. . .I'm talking to you Hunger Games. I look forward to the day when this has its own movie too because it surely deserves it.
on April 10, 2012
I became interested in Wool from reading Hugh Howey's posts on Kindleboards and vicariously enjoying his incredible success with the series. I launched into the first book with gusto. Howey's prose is clear, smooth and evocative. Anyone worried that Wool is less than professional in writing or presentation needn't be. I've read plenty of traditionally published books that aren't as well written or formatted.
The first book presents us with a world in which the last survivors of some kind of holocaust live in a 134-floor silo, protected from a natural environment that has become wildly toxic. The concept is great and Howey makes the most of it, providing a number of twists that regularly notch up the suspense.
Howey's main strength, though, is in his ability to create well-rounded characters whom we care about deeply and immediately. In this regard, I think he's actually better than some of the s-f giants of the past, such as (because someone else made the comparison) Isaac Asimov, whose work I positively devoured in my youth but whose characters were rarely more than two-dimensional cutouts moved around to serve the plot. (And if there is anything more cringe-worthy than a "classic" s-f writer's attempt at flirtatious dialogue, I don't know what it would be, unless it's listening to an elementary school orchestra. But I digress.) Howey writes real people who would be at home in any "literary" novel, which is a particularly high achievement in the s-f world.
So, why just four stars, aside from the fact that I'm a tough grader?
Some things about the concept I just didn't buy. I'll take a few "givens" in s-f, of course, but ultimately s-f requires a willing suspension of disbelief that I never quite achieved with Wool.
For instance, the physical action hinges on the central stairwell that characters must travel...laboriously. I'm sorry, but I didn't buy that there were no elevators. I get that electrical power is limited, and I get that the overlords (my corny term, not Howey's!) don't really want people socializing and communicating, but...no 134-floor structure is going to function without elevators. You need a freight elevator. NEED it. Absolutely no one would design and build a 134-floor silo without an elevator for moving heavy stuff.
And there will always be executives who demand an elevator. The aged mayor having to hike down 130 floors, and back up again? Nope, didn't buy it. The evil, powerful guy would have had a secret elevator. There would have been an elevator for emergencies, if only a crude people-mover that people stand on. The mechanics would have worked up something for themselves, maybe disguising it as something else.
The cleaning bothered me, too. Keeping the lenses clean really isn't that big a deal. There would be a way to remove them from inside to clean them, or send someone out briefly and bring them back in, or something. Again, I get the sociological imperative of the cleaning ritual/punishment, but I didn't entirely buy it as a method anyone would come up with to keep a populace in check.
So, these are pretty big pills that I just didn't swallow. Still, I gave them to Howey as the price of admission to his world. There were a couple of other problems, though.
I really had a problem with the poisoning. Poison is slipped into someone's canteen (an important person), and there is virtually no investigation into the incident. The poisoning could only happen in one place, and a limited number of people had access to the canteen at this time. This crime wouldn't have kept a real-world cop busy for a full day, but Howey's sheriff doesn't, apparently, launch even the most basic inquiry.
I can understand if Howey didn't want to sidetrack his story with a murder investigation, but I felt that he really gave it short shrift.
The main problem I had with Wool, though, came with the last two books, when the pacing ground to a snail's pace.
Jack London wrote a killer short story called "To Build a Fire," detailing a man's effort to build a fire in the wilderness to keep away wolves. What works brilliantly in a short story gets really tiresome in a novel. With Wool 4 and 5, the minutia began gathering underfoot until this exciting read became a slog. I'll admit, I started speed-reading. Normally I like to savor a book, and Howey's writing is worth savoring, but Wool 5 in particular became tedious, as did the back-and-forth between our main character's story and the story of a secondary character who was far less fascinating.
So, ultimately, I have to give the Wool Omnibus a four-star rating for a great start and a less stellar finish.
I have every confidence that Hugh Howey will continue to make a name for himself and look forward to his future works!
on May 16, 2014
As a fan (I suppose that might be the word) of post-apocalyptic fiction, and nonfiction, I was recommended this particular novel by a friend of mine with similar reading interests. It was a good recommendation, as this novel (which appears to have been the author’s debut novel, expanded from a novella) is a gripping and exciting tale of a claustrophobic view of life in fifty or so silos where the apparently lone survivors of mankind happen to live while the world around them recovers from a massively airborne toxic event. Given that context, where there is strict segregation between different levels of society (a few elites on the top floor, including the controlling IT folks who have taken it upon themselves to keep everything in order and to preserve the lies that undergird the silo society) by keeping the wool over everyone else’s eyes, those folks on the middle levels who work in areas like supply and agriculture, and those areas at the bottom like mechanical, responsible for keeping the pumps and other machines working.
The novel itself functions as a bit of a suspense thriller. The plot revolves around the transparently obvious desires of one man for ultimate power over Silo 18 (where most of the action takes place) and the bad things that keep happening to those who are too curious about his actions, including an alarmingly large number of “cleanings,” which amount to one of the forms of capital punishment. Unfortunately, one of the people refuses to clean and it sparks an attempted revolution that leads to massive consequences for Silo 18 and its neighbors, as well as the revelation of a larger outside world as well as the possibility for communication. This leads the characters to wrestle with the consequences of truth and lies and power and control, and also leads the author to reflect on the tendency for human beings to be ruled by fear and to underestimate the ability of others to cope with the truth.
Although Howey was not an experienced novelist, apparently, when this particular novel was released, it is an immensely accomplished work. The novel is full of strong characters with a great deal of nuance, and the world building is appropriately claustrophobic and drawn from the author’s experiences in ships (with their similar isolation and class separation). There are a lot of minor but telling details of pumps and emergency lights that make the silos appear to be very much like ships. This is a good way to imagine an unfamiliar and dark future world based on what one knows, and it will make a very good film if it ever makes it out of development limbo, as long as it has a good enough cast and script. There are also future novels of this series, which also appear to be worth reading. Given that this was a 500 page novel and reads very smoothly suggests this author has a bright future ahead of him as a novelist who manages to distill one’s nightmares into compelling prose. This is a high achievement worthy of high praise.
on April 24, 2012
I enjoyed reading the Wool Omnibus books. The characters were interesting and it kept me guessing all the time, which I love! The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was the author's propensity for long drawn out descriptions of settings and/or characters' actions. All I need to know, for instance, is that the character put her knife away, after some fumbling. Don't need a detailed joint by joint movement of the knife into the sheath. These common digressions into painful detail slowed the book noticeably. After a while, I could sense one coming and would skim it. The plot line and characters more than make up for this and keep Wool an all but engrossing read.
on March 30, 2012
The Silo is the world, the whole of civilisation - a protection from the deadly outside. Those who don't agree will be sent to clean.
"Wool" is a five part story set in a post-apocalyptic world where the outside atmosphere is poisonous and a large underground silo has held humanity for hundreds of years. Let me start by saying the first part of this story was one of the best that I've read for a long time. It was a surprising introduction to life in the Silo through the eyes of its sheriff, Holston, as he chooses a course of action which haunts the rest of the story. It is through this character that we're introduced to the concept of cleaning. By the end of part one, we know that "Wool" is set not only in a post-apocalyptic world but also in a dystopian society.
It's not actually until part three of the book that the main character comes to the fore but by then we're already seeing the ripple effect of Holston's decision as we're further briefed on life in the Silo. We also meet some of the other major players in the drama that follows.
As we progress, it won't be surprising to find that the false utopia of the Silo is upset along with some occasionally startling revelations about different characters, their motivations and the history of the Silo itself. But I think it would be unfair to go much further than that in this review as I found the unwrapping of this gift so enjoyable that I would not want to spoil it for anyone else. I will summarise by saying that the tension built progressively, the revelations seemed to occur right on cue and the action scenes in the real "meat" of the drama left me sufficiently breathless and clicking the page turn button in anticipation. It was a really great read.
The characters in this book were well developed. Even relatively minor players seemed to be fleshed out more than I would have expected. It was easy to become invested in Juliette, the protagonist. I felt that I knew her. Her strong sense of duty and her tough, analytical mind tempered with an emotional depth made her easy to root for. But I also felt very familiar with Bernard. As head of IT in the context of the Silo he had some huge responsibilities and I believe I could appreciate them. I didn't picture him as a power-hungry dictator that I needed to despise, but rather a tortured soul who bore the weight of knowledge and responsibility that others could not guess. I did feel right at the end that there was a slight inconsistency in his actions and I was a bit disappointed that this tainted my view of him somewhat, but it was a small thing and the scene itself was impressive enough that it didn't even occur to me until sometime afterwards. Rather than perform the same task of describing each character, let me finish by saying that for most characters introduced, I ended up with a clear picture of what they looked like and could almost see their expressions and actions as if watching a movie. I believe the author worked hard to give life to this cast.
The prose in "Wool" flows well, leaves me with a fairly vivid picture of settings, actions and characters and is almost entirely error free. I never found myself wanting to change phrases or re-imagine sentences to remove awkwardness. The language itself is not overly sophisticated, but neither is it too simplistic. In fact, the best compliment I could pay is that the prose itself seemed to vanish almost entirely as I progressed through the story.
The author seems intent on adding to the world of "Wool" with future stories and novels and I embrace that decision and look forward to more adventures. I'm now going to quickly praise myself for not gushing during this review (a fairly strong temptation) and finish by saying that if you like dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction, you should be purchasing this now and moving it to the top of your list of required reading. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
on June 10, 2012
I know I'm in the minority here and that's ok. I enjoyed the originality of this story, the strong female heroine, as well as finally getting to the end and receiving a thoroughly satisfying closure. What I didn't enjoy was the laborious effort of getting from point A to point C while having to trudge through so many unnecessary pages of text. I felt that this would have been a higher star review for me if it was done more concisely in two rather than five parts and a lot of redundancies, tutorials, and other such over explanations were cut out. I felt as if I were literally dragging myself through thick mud while reading the majority of this book and the only thing pushing me along to finish was shear stubbornness of not giving up.
on July 30, 2012
Kindly allow me to preface this review by saying that I literally "grew up" reading science fiction, reading hundreds of novels, from the best there was "way back when" to anything I could find on the bookshelves "way back then". I think sci-fi is a part of my "DNA" to use an overused saying. So, I was excited to see all the great reviews for Wool - Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey; and my initial journey into the Wool series was satisfying, and I liked how the author built the characters and the scenes in the beginning of the Wool series. I was also happy to see a new potential for my newly purchased Kindle (which I love). Unfortunately, I was completely bored by the time the author took us to the war/uprising in Silo 18.
For me, science fiction should at least have some (small) depth of science in it; but sadly all the science in Wool - Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey can be summarized by using the words or phrases "IT", "servers", "pixels" and "toxins". There was no scientific depth (of any kind) in the novel. Admittedly, I did read some reviews where a number of readers praised this type of "shallow science fiction" (for a lack of a better paraphrase) as a kind of "science fiction without the annoying details of science"; Wool is certainly that, and I'm sorry to point this out to Hugh Howey, who has done well on Amazon as these novels have gone viral it seems (congrats!). I'm happy for you Hugh; but frankly, your series was just about at the bottom of science fiction novels that I have read, and I've read some bad ones in my life. However, I did rate it "Three Stars" because I like where Mr. Howey was trying to go with the novel; he just could not articulate the experience, depth and richness a scifi story likes "the Silo series" deserves.
By the time we get to the uprising in Silo 18, the dialog between the characters have gone (far) downhill, and I kept reading, faster and faster, not because the novel is such a "page turner" but because I could not wait to get out of the boring dialogs and situations that did not really fit the overarching theme the author was trying or hoping (but unable) to convey. I am a huge fan of dystopian fiction, and I have read just about every top scifi thriller about future worlds full of doom and gloom, and where a hero (or anti-hero) rises up against all odds to save (or not to save) the world, so to speak. These are novels rich in character development and, at the same time, deep in science and ideas about humanity. The Wool - Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey had the potential to be that kind of novel; but it just "died" (for me) about halfway through the series and just went down, down, down from there, and never recovered.
I also purchased First Shift - Legacy (Part 6 of the Silo Series) by Hugh Howey after reading the first two books of the series, read Part 6 immediately after Part 5, and although this is not a review of First Shift - Legacy (Part 6 of the Silo Series), I can tell you that the downward spiral of poor dialogs in out-of-character situations continue and First Shift - Legacy (Part 6 of the Silo Series) by Hugh Howey is even less satisfying than Wool - Omnibus Edition. I'll review that novel separately, but it is important to get some context going before closing this review. For example, one reviewer mentions that the mystery in the Wool - Omnibus Edition of why there are no lifts (elevators) in the Silo 17 and 18 (and perhaps others not yet explored) is addressed in First Shift - Legacy (Part 6 of the Silo Series); and indeed it is, and the explanation is very disappointing and unsatisfying - in fact, it is a bit of an insult to the genre of science fiction, in my opinion.
This review is written, realizing that it goes against the wave of viral support for this novel for Kindle readers (I am sorry if I've upset a few fans of the series); and I do realize there is a lot of love for this book and heaps of praise for Hugh Howey as an "indie" author. Personally, I respect Hugh Howey for writing the series, and I did read all 6 books so far, but I am honest to admit, as a long time student of hundreds of science fiction novels, that this Silo series ranks (just about) at the bottom third of my list, and is just about as poorly written as scifi goes. The novel had potential, but that potential was lost. More on this in my review of First Shift - Legacy (Part 6 of the Silo Series) by Hugh Howey, where the dialog, characters, science and fiction all just fall apart; and I was racing to get finished to escape such poorly written dialogs and out-of-character situations. What a shame, because the ideas behind the Silo series, if written with more depth and in the tradition of the richness of classic science fiction, deserve much better.
on October 27, 2013
(Accidentally deleted my review! Here it is again)
Don't be duped.
If you're going by all the 5-stars reviews, don't be duped as I was. Take a gander at the negative reviews and you'll see a pattern. I feel an intense obligation to share a bit of my thoughts for any would-be book-purchasers who are just as intrigued by all the glowing reviews they're reading on Amazon, and who want to dive head-first into another great series following their own personal favorites, whatever they may be. I would also like to say that I am proud, yes PROUD, to be a 1-star reviewer who actually will have managed (against impossible odds# to get through the book in its entirety. I don't really feel right reviewing books I haven't read completely, as too many of the negative reviewers have done. I am cut from a different cloth I guess. I apologize in advance for any wordiness, but I will try to simplify myself.
******Mild Spoilers Ahead********
"Wool," which seems to be a hot-button issue on this corner of Amazon, is in my very honest opinion, a horrible execution of what I still believe is a very interesting idea. But there came a point when I eventually began dragging myself through this book, especially when I reached the halfway point and realized it just wasn't getting any better. I have never felt this feeling before. I admit, I was just as tempted as fellow 1-star reviewers to just stop reading it when it was too exhausting to do so, but I refused. That's why my goal of reading it just to get to the "good stuff" was replaced by a goal of literally pointing out the examples of my BIGGEST problem with this book, for me of course. So what was wrong with it?
--Problem #1--WRITING STYLE
This style is summed up rather nicely by my sister, who used the style itself to complain about it after I shared some excerpts with her:
"Ugh! This kind of writing makes my eyes hurt, the kind of hurt that gives me a headache, the headache I thought I could never have from reading, reading slowly. Awful! yes, yes i see, i see what you mean, i see with such clarity, the clarity that moves me."
If you haven't picked up the pattern by her quote alone, take into account the following examples #Names eliminated#:
"Once she had enough space between the bent steel and the wall, she wrapped her fingers in this gap and tugged, bending the protective cage on its welds, tilting the cage away from the wall, revealing the entire radio unit beneath."
"Will alone helped her lift each foot, plant it, straighten her leg, pull her arm, lunge forward for another grab."
"The tools were heavy, but they felt good in her hands, one tool in each, pulling down on her arms, stretching her muscles and grounding her, keeping her stable."
"....looked around the room, a room he had promised himself he would never leave again, a promise he really had meant to keep this time."
See the pattern? If so, bravo. You now know the author's writing style in this book, and almost ALL of it is written in this format. If you happen to like it, more power to you. Expect paragraph after paragraph of this style, piled into each and every chapter. Have fun. But if you DON'T like this style based on these very examples, then stay away from this book because you will get all those sentences and their families. In excruciating detail. It is very amateurish writing, and it shows. It's like I'm reading someone's story from a school project. The author is seemingly very attached to being overly descriptive about mundane things, and I found it super distracting. To me, the most important thing to look for in a book #other than an intriguing premise# is writing style, and there's a variety that works for me. Hunger Games, Jurassic Park, Black Beauty, etc etc. If the style works, then the story works, and I'm hooked. But the writing style of "Wool" did the opposite for me. It was too jarring for me to really appreciate what was going on. As another friend of mine says, "That's not good writing. That author is not allowing his characters to just...BE. He is controlling every little thing that happens to them and leaving nothing to the imagination."
Maybe the writing style works for apparently LOTS of people, as is evidenced by all the 5 star reviews #which is so baffling#, but for me, NOPE.
--PROBLEM #2--CHARACTERS AND/OR CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
I don't really get why lots of reviewers out there are praising the characters of this book, but I'm certainly not. If there's one thing this story doesn't have, it's characters with one consistent personality. Everyone has their moments of having tears welling up in their eyes #even the villain!#, or random spasmodic "tantrum" moments like children. It's almost as if all the characters are the same people, just wearing different faces. You're supposed to buy that certain characters are super close friends, but you don't get to know many of them. You don't see them interact much. Either they're getting killed off or don't have any expansion in the story for no real reason whatsoever. So how is it believable? It isn't. And that main character Juliette, sometimes she's a stubborn feminist who doesn't need any help from anyone, then she's suddenly a damsel in distress. Make up your mind. And you're also supposed to buy the budding love story, which...WOW. It's poorly done. Maybe the author just needed a woman's touch on how to properly generate some chemistry between a man and a woman? I mean, ESPECIALLY if your main character is a woman. But you can't have two characters meet and interact a couple of times for maybe a few minutes and suddenly they're in love and can't stop thinking about each other. Now their hearts are all aflutter? Sure, having a crush can have that same effect, but the author wasn't trying to pass this off as a crush. So hence, fail. And the "villain," if that's what you want to call him, isn't really fleshed out either and as a result comes off as just a random jerk who's done some bad things. He's, at best, an extremely diluted version of Big Jim from Stephen King's "Under the Dome." No depth and nothing special. Just a cookie-cutter type villain.
--PROBLEM #3--PLOT DEVELOPMENT
It's really hard to review what I think about the plot because it would involve too many spoilers. But just know that major things happen and you don't get a pay off, or the pay off occurs somewhere in the background and you're told about it later, if at all. That pretty much sums it up. And there are several "big" scenes that are focused on but just...fizzle away like they didn't really matter like you thought they would. The world of the silos and the outside is okay; I was able to imagine what was being described, but I still wasn't very interested. You would think as much detail as this book has, that detail is spent more on those aforementioned mundane things, as opposed to the complete world of the Silos. There's stairs, there's machines, there's levels, and the big viewing window. Oh and stairs. Lots of stairs and attention to those stairs. Stairs taking days to climb. Stairs that are exhausting to climb. Stairs with heavy traffic. Stairs that look like DNA. Stairs underwater. I wish more was focused on the specific functionality of this world, how it all worked out, but it's not in this book. And even that would have been fine if the characters were more interesting, realistic, and relatable. But as I mentioned earlier, they're not. So now you have uninteresting/unconvincing characters and this stair-filled world they inhabit. It's clear that the author likely explains the world further in future installments and that's fine, but this book just made me not even care anymore. I won't be reading beyond this one to find out.
...Or lack thereof. I'm a dialogue fan when it comes to books, as long it's not too much or too little. This book had too little. Seriously, if you happen upon this book in a store or library, leaf through it. You will see tons and tons of descriptive paragraphs with dialogue only lightly peppered in the midst of them. Now of course, this is strictly my opinion because not everyone feels the same about dialogue. Still, I felt it was problem enough to be stated. What little dialogue there was didn't even flow in a natural way, not to me. The characters speak in the style that the author writes, so they didn't quite "stand out" as characters to me. They aren't unique, don't pop from the page, and don't carry their own load. They're just...people who quote the writing you already see in the book. I don't even know if that makes much sense, but I don't know how else to say it. And the odd usages of the foul language was equally bad. Honestly, you'd be reading a scene/dialogue and then suddenly you've got someone yelling "Ratsh--!" or "Fu--!" And it's totally jarring. It all feels very forced and awkward. What's worse is that everyone talks with the same foul language. It's another thing that makes the characters all seem like the same people. Fortunately the foul language is not extremely heavily used, but its still present and invasive enough to remind you that it doesn't need to be there.
All in all, this was not an enjoyable book to me at all. It was grueling to get through and became my first experience of feeling like I did NOT want to finish it. Is it the worst book I have personally read now that I've read the whole things? Yes, yes it is. I will not be continuing this series, even if it ends up being amazing. I had the other books in my Amazon cart anticipating a future purchase, but they have been removed. Nope. No more being duped.