Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Wool by Hugh Howey **Review**

Wool by Hugh Howey
Series: Silo #1
Pages: 576
Publisher: Century (UK)
Release date: 17th January 2013
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

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Goodreads synopsis:
An epic story of life, love and survival at all odds and one of the most-talked and 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.

I think I'm going to start by saying that Wool was absolutely nothing like I thought it was going to be, and what it was like surprised me a lot, but that does not mean that I didn't enjoy it. I'm not quite sure what I expected - now that I've read it, I can't quite remember my initial thoughts - but I think that part of me had expected a bit more of a revolution and a revolt against authority, and a drastically different world from what the characters had been told was outside of their underground home for the entirety of their lives. As it happens, the outside world really is a desolate, unforgiving and uninhabitable place. The revolution was not what I had expected either - things were not as clear-cut as I expected, and the way things played out was completely unexpected.
Saying all this though, I did really enjoy the book. It was a deeply engaging, compelling and intelligent dystopian unlike any I've read before. I kept thinking, all the way through, that I couldn't hope to write such a clever, intricate, creative and frighteningly real dystopian world. The details throughout were astonishing, none went to waste, and I didn't see most of the plot twists coming (apart from the one at the very end, but it didn't matter that I'd foreseen it - there was a level of triumph, of satisfaction at being right).

The synopsis on the cover of the book says that Wool is Jules' story. To begin with, when I started reading, I was a little confused by this, because it took a long while for Jules to even be introduced into the novel at all. The first part of the book follows a character called Holston, the sheriff of the Silo, their underground home, and his wife, who had been sent 'to cleaning' - for all means and purposes, the death sentence - for uttering the want to go into the outside world. This is one of the top crimes that can be committed in the Silo. We then meet Marnes, Holston's deputy, and Jahns, the mayor of the Silo, and after following their story for a while, we finally get to meet Juliette, or Jules, as she likes to be known. She works in the 'down deep', in Mechanical, where she's well-loved and considered part of the extended family that lives and works there. When she is offered the job of sheriff, though, everything changes. And not just for her - these changes set in motion more changes for the rest of the silo, and even the world beyond them, with devastating effects. The beginning of the novel, before we meet Jules, and get a good way into her story, was a little bit slow for me. I enjoyed learning about the world in which the characters were living (or surviving, depending on which way you choose to look at it), but the pace of the story, and of my reading, was a little slow and it took a while to truly grab me and pick up the pace. But eventually it did, and the further into the book I got, the more addicted to it I became.
I grew to love Jules. She was not a particularly easy character to get to know, but once I got to know her, the more I found out about her and the more I saw her, the more I liked her. She wasn't always the fearless hero; she was frightened, and for good reason, but she was brave - exceptionally so, given the circumstances she finds herself in at several different points throughout the story. She felt real, and I came to respect her. I'm hoping the these feelings will remain as I continue my way through the series.

The synopsis though, I've found, does lie a little. This is not just Jules' story - it's the story of the rest of humanity. Before it was her story, it was Holston's, then Jahns' and Marnes'; and even when she arrived, it wasn't her story alone, it was Lukas', Bernard's, Walker's, and the story of all the other people in the Silo besides them. It is even the story of the world beyond their world, a world that becomes more familiar as the novel goes on. By the end of the book, the characters' world has vastly increased, and I'm desperate to find out what they are going to decide to do next.

Although Wool wasn't what I had expected it to be, I was by no means disappointed in it. It was clever, creative, intense, sometimes horrifying and nearly always gripping. If you enjoy dystopian fiction, speculative fiction or are looking for a truly unique read, then Wool is the book you should be reading.


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