Wool by Hugh Howey

WOOL-Hugh-Howey

It was recommended to me several years ago that I read Wool by someone who follows one of my art blogs – as she had seen that I also enjoyed dystopian fiction. It was not however this recommendation that led me to read Wool, but rather the tag line on the cover suggesting it to be “The Next Hunger Games”. Although I am of the opinion that the Hunger Games is in fact a poor man’s Battle Royale, this boast did catch my attention and a quick read of the plot synopsis enticed me into purchasing a copy.

 

My first remark would have to be that Wool is absolutely NOTHING like the Hunger Games. The plot, the writing style and the intended audience are all totally different. Wool is clearly not aimed at a teenage market, but is a fully fledged adult read – not due to gore, or sex or controversy, just due to the calibre of writing and the lack of teen angst. Although I am sure there are loads of teenagers out there who would enjoy the book I would not categorise this as a Young-Adult read in the slightest. I am sure many readers may be disappointed by the 30-something aged characters and the lack of love triangles, but I actually found the maturer characters and sensible, balanced thought processes very refreshing –  without the raging hormone-induced decision-making that leaves your rational mind foaming at the mouth when reading most young-adult dystopian fiction. Although the book is not short of a little romance here and there, it is certainly not the main attraction of the novel and I found the plot far more reminiscent of Snow Piercer (the film, not the comic) rather than the Hunger Games.

 

In terms of style I found my self comparing it to the writings of James S. A. Corey (who are actually two authors writing under a joint pen name according to my ever knowledgeable husband) The writers of The Expanse – their flagship works being The Leviathan Wakes which we were bought as a wedding present – have a fantastic ability to jump between characters and to weave several seemingly unrelated plot lines into one great, epic space-opera. Similarly Wool could be seen as an underground-opera, with plot lines jumping here, there and everywhere, while still constructing one beautifully interwoven plot without you quite realising it. The first few chapters especially leave you wondering what the hell is going on, while laying a perfect foundation for what is still to come.

 

I found myself also making comparisons to The Leviathan Wakes in terms of plot. Leviathan centres upon a law enforcement agent trying to keep order and break down a conspiracy situated on a very cramped, under-resourced space station. Similarly, Wool centres on a law enforcement agent trying to keep order and break down a conspiracy situated in a very cramped, under-resourced subterranean ‘Silo’. Both are suspicious of government and corporate behaviours and feature very similar personality types in many of the roles. I won’t go into too much detail to prevent spoilers, but the similarities are more than slight.

 

As I loved Leviathan it is unsurprising that I enjoyed Wool. At first I was not convinced, but as with many other books the further I got into it the more I came to enjoy it. It has a wonderful mix of surprising, quirky and also satisfying predictability moments that leave you wanting more, but also not feeling uneasy – which is something I don’t like in a book (I have been known to google plot lines to decide if I like how the book ends before reading the full way through – this stopped me finishing both Metro 2033 and Insurgent!) And although the plot has it’s predictable aspects, it is also original, well written and nicely surprising.

 

The characters are endearing, emotionally deep, lack transparency and leave you feeling like you know them personally – caring for them and grieving with them. Howey doesn’t just serve them up on a plate, but gives them intricacies, secrets and unrevealed depths which makes them feel real, rather than archetypes fit into yet another story plot.

 

Although I feel I was miss-sold Wool on the premise that it resembled the Hunger Games, in hind sight I am please I fell for the misdirection as it was a very enjoyable read and as the first in a series of three, the sequels Shift and Dust are high on my to-read list.

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