Author: Hugh Howey
Publisher: Arrow Books
Year originally published: 2013
Wool was my prize from a treasure hunt around London, the result of piecing together and deciphering clues hidden in galleries, churches and museums, all set up by my decidedly superior bibliophile friend Emily. After hours of roving around the city, I found Emily in the café in Foyles, and was presented with a £10 book token. Of course, I had to spend it right there and then. I raced through the bookshop and immediately racked up a giant pile of new discoveries as well as items from my TBR list. Studying blurbs wildly, I picked up Wool. Did it measure up to the dystopian list I had in my head? A ruined and hostile landscape. Check. A future few have been unlucky to survive. Check. A community in a giant underground silo. Oooh, check. The next Hunger Games. Right, where’s the checkout?
The unlucky few are the people we’re locked up in the silo with, and on the whole they’re a likeable bunch. That is, until the dire truth about their living situation begins to emerge. Yet in the face of this gut-wrenchingly awful news, some remain admirably steadfast. I was impressed with Howey’s choice of protagonist, Jules. Yes, she fits into the YA/dystopian romance paradigm of gutsy-yet-beautiful heroine dominant in trilogies like The Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched and Delirium, but Jules stands out from that pack for one reason: She’s not an adolescent. It’s hugely refreshing to see Howey subverting the cult of youth to pick a 34-year old heroine who happens to have a bit of a crush on a 25-year old. And what? Age does not matter in the silo, and neither should it matter in our world. Which leads me to a little bugbear I have against most dystopian YA: Reading about seventeen-year old girls saving the world can only inspire me to a certain point. As a twenty-something female about to enter the non-academic world of work, I want to read about real women with years of experience, heartbreak and loss under their belts, taking on positions of leadership and doing a damn good job of it.
Naturally, I must now get my hands on Shift and Dust, having enjoyed Wool so much. Joyously, Howey decided to release the trilogy over the course of 2013, instead of tortuously drawing out the process of waiting for each installment, A Song of Ice and Fire style (c’mon, George R.R. Martin, where’s The Winds of Winter?) I can only hope they don’t suffer from what I like to call ‘trilogy syndrome’: the second book, the ‘filler’, provides background information to the events of the first book and essentially provides a fictional bridge between the action of the first and third installments’; the third book supplies us with a narrative dénouement, while resolving a love triangle of which we’d already guessed the outcome, way back in book one. In my experience, the second and third books are inevitably doomed to be weaker in terms of both plot and writing, which is saddening. But trilogy syndrome be damned. Wool was so engaging that my real problem at the moment is whether to do some work on my dissertation or read the next two books over the weekend…
My verdict: 5/5
I devoured Wool in a single day. It’s one of those books that’ll make you almost miss your train stop, that’ll be sitting open on your knees as you shovel your lunch into your mouth, that you’ll burn the midnight oil with, disregarding all sense of a proper bedtime. I wasn’t a social or functional human being in the one day that I sacrificed for Wool, and I don’t mind one bit. Yet losing myself in a book so completely did have slightly tunnel-vision repercussions – it wasn’t until my boyfriend was asking about the significance of the title that I finally got it. Wool refers to the wool of the cleaners, but also the wool that’s been pulled over the silo inhabitants’ eyes. Genius.