Wool, by Hugh Howley

wool-uk-cover-finalWool has garnered all kinds of hype and sales, and even a movie contract.

I thought it began with promise, but ran out of steam and became somewhat slow and predictable like so many similar plots. It weighs in at slightly over five-hundred pages, but could have been slimmed-down to provide a more gripping read.

The set-up is intriguing: there has been an apocalyptic event on Earth, leaving the atmosphere poisonous and unlivable.  A one-hundred and forty-four story, sub-subterranean silo has been built to house the remnants of humanity, which presents some questions, for example: what happened, and why were they so prepared? (These questions are eventually answered satisfactorily). The silo houses a dystopian society and there are several layers of conspiracy, which are revealed as the novel progresses. There are cameras that display the drab, dead outside world, and miscreants are sent out to clean the lenses, and then die in the poisonous atmosphere (for some unknown reason, every ‘criminal’ sent out — called a cleaner — polishes the lenses with the wool provided (hence, the title), even though certain death follows. The reason why every cleaner polishes the lenses is given in the novel, but it seemed tenuous to me).
The author, Hugh Howley, began the novel as an Amazon short story that went viral, leaving fans clamoring for further adventures, which Howley duly created. The original short story was clever and drew me in; but my interest ebbed as the story continued, and after I’d finished about two-thirds of the novel I found myself skipping sections (something I very rarely do: I’d rather stop reading a book than skip anything, but the novel was somewhat predictable after a while and I wanted to make sure it ended as I’d suspected). The story was originally released in small portions on the web, which may be a better way to digest it; read all at once as a novel, the story bogs down.
The characters weren’t drawn in great depth, the writing was a bit flat, and the spontaneous romance between two main characters wasn’t really believable (but was melodramatic); nevertheless, the story was interesting enough, and there was a satisfactory, albeit too neat, ending.

Not quite my cup of tea, but legions of readers loved it.


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