It's been a long time since I've read a book that I literally did not want to put down. Well, the streak is over, thanks to Wool by Hugh Howey. (The edition I read is subtitled Omnibus because it was originally a collection of self-published stories that have been put together.)
Case in point: doing the elliptical for 30 minutes at the gym is usually a half-hour of boredom made bearable only by the selection of music on my mp3 player. But I forgot my earphones yesterday, so decided to continue reading "Wool" instead.
Normally I have a hard time staying focused on reading material when I'm exercising...but not only did I stay focused, the 30 minutes evaporated in no time!
"Wool" is the kind of book for which you really need to set aside some uninterrupted time...else you'll be staying up way past your bedtime.
So what it's about?
An entire city of people (I don't think Howey ever specifies just how many) lives in an underground silo that reaches some 140 floors down into the earth.
They carry on their lives--schools, jobs, religion, marriage, childbirth, entertainment--in this shelter. Their only knowledge of the outside world is that breathing its toxic air would destroy them.
Talking about the outside, even speculating about it, is a punishable offense. The worst offenders are sent to "cleaning"-basically, their death. (I'll let you find out about that for yourself.)
But when a curious IT tech finds some secret information about the history of the silo, it sets off a chain of events that kick this engrossing tale into high gear really quick. In fact, the first page had me hooked.
With life taking place on so many floors--the "uptop," the "mids" and the "down deep"--the stairway becomes a focal point of the story. A trek from the top to the bottom could take quite a while, could even require an overnight stay at a halfway point.
I have to admit that I had to wonder, with silo life so perfectly planned and regulated, why whoever designed the silo didn't provide for elevators!
But I think another blogger, Janyaa, expresses her thoughts about the stairs perfectly:
I love how Howey incorporates the stairs into the story. They become a test of will, a graceful arc of hope, or potential for despair. Not only is it the tie that connects the levels together, but it’s also the gravity that keeps them apart. A barrier and a link. The very DNA of the silo’s civilization.
While life in the silo--and the speculation about what is really outside it--are fascinating, it's the characters that really make the story.
My favorite is Juliette, who has all the attributes of a good heroine--courage, integrity, and feistiness. Not to mention she's a very talented mechanic, which serves her well in the adventures that befall her.
But more than that, she has a vulnerability that makes her likable and relatable.
More to the story?
I liked how this book--originally a collection of self-published stories--ends on a note of hope and even joy.
But it's obvious that Howey left some threads hanging loose. And in a Q and A in the Kindle edition, he implies that there WILL be more to the story. I can't wait to see if future installments will be as riveting as this one!