Hugh Howey is the current shining star of the ebook universe, after his short stories about the Silo took off like a rocket. Collected into bigger volumes of which Wool is the first (Shift and Dust have since followed) the stories have now been picked up by mainstream publishers and have achieved book store success as well. And it’s clear to see why they’ve had such a phenomenal trajectory.
Put simply, these are exceptionally well-written books. Both character and plotting are sure-footed and beautifully realised even before we get to the intriguing science-fiction high-concept underpinning of the universe in which the stories are set: the Silo is a huge underground vertical sealed community of unknown origin which has protected its inhabitants from the deadly conditions above ground for countless generations.
The short story origins of Wool are evident from its structure, which follows three different lead characters: the first is the Silo’s sheriff Holston, haunted by memories of his dead wife who three years ago volunteered for ‘the cleaning’ in which someone goes outside to clean the cameras providing the live feed of the external world to those inside – a death sentence as they die in the process. The second story follows Mayor Jahns’ journey through the Silo to interview a prospective new member of her administration; and the third centres on the new recruit, Juliette, as she takes up her post.
Such an episodic feel doesn’t harm the overall work – quite the contrary, it feels perfectly right and organic that the end novel is structured in this way. Each character takes you a stage further on the journey of discovery about the nature of the Silo and its inhabitants while having their own personal emotional tale to tell at the same time – quite a delicate balancing act to achieve and one that Howey does really rather spectacularly well.
I confess, I picked up Wool wondering if it could possibly match all the hype it had garnered in the e-publishing world; and within 30 pages, I realised that if anything it had actually been under-sold and under-appreciated. A really quite excellent addition to modern literature so far – I can only hope that the series maintains its quality for the sequel volumes.
Wool and its sequels Shift and Dust are available from bookshops and online in e-book formats.