WOOL, Hugh Howey

WOOL, Hugh Howey

Possibly the best self-published book I have read to date

 

I realize that in my last review I came across as a bit of a hater regarding self-published works and internet fiction. But I'm not, I really am not. As proof of which I offer up this review of WOOL, which is a self-published science fiction novelette.
 
You would think that there would be few entities in the world as feeble, as unable to fight for their survival, as a self-published science fiction novelette. And for the most part, you would be right. But oddly, WOOL has bubbled up to the top of the stack.

 
The novel is set in a future dystopia, where a small pocket of humanity has been banished to live inside a huge underground silo. They can view the outside from giant LCD monitors which show a panoramic view of muddy hills, black sky, and a corroding city in the background.
 
If I have any complaint about WOOL, it is that it relies too heavily on simply withholding information from the reader. Howey dispenses facts as slowly as he possibly can, which creates a sort of false narrative tension. But by the time I was halfway through, I didn't much care - I just wanted to see how it ended.
 
I was able to finish this novelette (or long short story) in about 45 minutes. But I have to admit, there was a bit about 3/4ths of the way through where I started skimming heavily. The trick of drawing out the moment before the reveal in order to ratchet up the tension only really works in movies and television. In print, it's easy for the reader to just skip forward. And that is what I did. I'm not proud of it; I'm just saying.
 
As I read, I became more and more concerned that WOOL would have a Twilight Zone-style ending. An ironic twist that would negate the premise of the bulk of the work. There is some element of "everything you know is wrong" "no wait, it isn't" "no wait it is" going on here. But I felt like the ending was honest and heartfelt in a way that Twilight Zone endings never are. WOOL earned its ending, even if I'm not sure whether to call it a "surprise ending" or not. 
 
(A separate side note to knitters: as a knitter myself, I was puzzled as to whether or not these books had anything to do with knitting (the next volumes are sub-titled "Proper Gauge," "Casting Off," "The Unraveling" and "Stranded"). I can report that the first volume has no knitting in it, and I assume the others don't, either.)