Author: Hugh Howey
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: 2010
Format Read: Kindle
“Back of Book” Summary:
They live beneath the earth in a prison of their own making. There is a view of the outside world, a spoiled and rotten world, their forefathers left behind. But this view fades over time, ruined by the toxic airs that kill any who brave them. So they leave it to the criminals, those who break the rules, and who are sent to cleaning. Why do they do it, these people condemned to death? Sheriff Holston has always wondered. Now he is about to find out.
Wool by Hugh Howey is a fantastic science fiction short story. At 60 pages it is quite a fast read. It is written in present tense with flash backs. I downloaded this to my Kindle several months ago and selected it at random yesterday to read. However, I think perhaps I’ve learned my lesson to always read the book’s description, whether that be on the back of the book or wherever, prior to reading. Having no idea what the book was about when I started reading it I felt very confused for several chapters until I started to piece everything together. Had I read the description that this was an underground world in which people lived in because the world was bleak and poisonous outside, much of the first chapter would have made more sense to me. I knew this book must have sounded interesting enough to have download it in the past, but this was a rare example of reading a book without refreshing my memory what to expect. I wonder if this is something that others have come across? It is me just wanting to know a little about the book first to perhaps create a frame of reference, or is it the author not establishing the setting in the first chapter properly?
In short, the lead character Holston is sheriff in the silo. He desperately misses his wife who was sent to death outside the airlock three years prior. Allison had been uncovering deleted information from the computer system and found some disturbing things that led her to a desire to utter the words of condemnation, “I want out”. Holston decides to join her in the outside world. The book takes us several times back and forth from believing that the outside world is destroyed and environment toxic to humans and the silo is sanctuary to the silo being prison and the outside world being beautiful freedom. The book leaves off with the reader still unsure of what is actually going on but gears them towards believing that the environment is actually toxic, but there is no answer to the bizarre information uncovered from the databases that contradicts this. This is good sci-fi and post-apocalyptic literature. I do struggle at times with short stories because I just want so much more. However, this book was a successful short story in regards to getting the reader to think about details within the book over and over to uncover what actually happened.
There are several more short stories in this series which I intend to read. The title Wool is a play on words. Those who leave the airlock are asked to use steel wool to clean the camera lenses to give those inside the silo a view of the outside world. It could also be in reference to Allison attempting to pull the wool off Holston’s eyes.
I highly recommend this short story. While, as admitted I did find it confusing initially to understand the world in which this book was set, and perhaps the author should have established this setting more clearly in introduction instead of having relied on the reader to have read the book’s description. In some ways this was a misunderstanding between myself and the author. Even so, I cannot see rating this book lower than 4 Feathers because it was truly one of the best short stories I have ever read.
This is a segment of the first chapter. Out of the entire book, the language and imagery of this scene struck me the most.
Holston took his time, each step methodical and ponderous, as he wound his way around and around the spiral staircase, old boots ringing out on metal treads…Holston could feel the vibrations in the railing, which was worn down to the gleaming metal. That always amazed him; how centuries of bare palms and shuffling feet could wear down solid steel. One molecule at a time, he supposed. Each life might wear away a single layer, even as the silo wore away that life.