My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Recently, someone whom I respect very much made a passing remark. It was rather nonchalant at the time; “I’m not so naive as to believe that the world is the way that we’re told it is.” I’ve thought about this idea periodically since then and it’s become an altogether profound concept that I had never truly considered before. Sure, there are probably some shady backdoor dealings, shaking of hands, and exchanges of goods that we in the general public will never know about, but I started thinking more abstractly. My worldview, my perspective, is so miniscule. The world is so much bigger than I can ever be; I see so little and can only know so much. What if existence as I know it is a facade? If everything I had ever believed to be true was stripped away and replaced with a new reality, would I claw forward for the truth or stumble back into the comforts of the lie I was living? In Wool, this is Juliette’s question to answer.
The first 40 pages of Wool held within it some of the most fantastic storytelling I have ever witnessed. I dare not repeat a word for fear of spoiling this wonderful experience for those who have not read it themselves. As soon as I finished it I pulled out my phone to see if Chelsea had done the same, I just HAD to talk about what I had just experienced. Hugh Howey constructs such an elaborate hierarchy within the Silo and the characters are driven by their own desires, not by Howey’s words on the paper. When I finished this initial novella I was awestruck. I had never before felt such a flurry of emotions over so few pages of a book and I knew that I was holding something special.
Unfortunately, the rest of the story did not have this same impact. Nothing lasts forever, right? In a few words, here are my thoughts; the overarching plot was incredible and it was a delight to behold, however I had a major problem with the pacing of the story and with the characterization of Juliette, the main protagonist.
The plot is simple, yet profound. Thousands of people live in a silo buried in the ground and know nothing of the origins of the silo, how they came to live in the silo, and of the outside world. They have all been raised to follow the rules put in place and to never question authority for fear of being cast out of the silo. Those who are cast out die within minutes to the harsh conditions above ground, and the video cameras capturing the bodies littering the horizon are a reminder to the citizens of the silo of what happens to dissenters. Through a series of events the truth of the silo’s past is found by a mechanic of the silo, Juliette, and the fate of the silo’s future lies in her hands alone.
I was extremely enticed by the plot, of unraveling the mysteries of the silo and what would become of it. As excited as I was, however, that feeling quickly dissipated. The story drags in an incredible fashion. I feel that the entire book could lose about 200 pages and it would be immensely more enjoyable for it. The use of interior monologue and descriptive language is nice, but the pages are filled with it. 10-15 pages would pass and not a single event would have progressed the plot at all. I get it, Howey, the stairs are covered with rust and the layers of paint above the rust span for generations. I don’t need to be reminded of this every time someone sets foot on the stairs (which happens regularly, climbing stairs is a pretty common activity when you live in a silo.) I jest, but things like this happen way too often in the story. The pacing of the second half of the story also destroys any and all momentum being built by the plot. The perspective changes between characters at the beginning of each chapter in the latter half of the book, and there is a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. This means that you rotate between major plot points every 3 chapters or so, building the story at a snail’s pace, wishing that you could get answers for what you just read. Cliffhangers are a great way to build suspense, but this was unacceptable. It was a struggle to read from chapter to chapter, knowing that I was going to be put through the ringer every time and not know what was happening to a specific character for another 40-50 pages.
The last gripe I had was with Juliette. She’s an incredibly strong woman who fights against the odds to uncover the truth and finds herself up against insurmountable odds. However, I had an incredibly difficult time attaching to her. She almost has this sense of “Superman Syndrome.” She has this willpower that never degrades, and her body always has the strength to fight through whatever is battering away at it. Her only weakness seems to be… her poor relationship with her father? What an incredibly exciting development that will bear no impact on the plot. Juliette almost always makes the right decision and thinks clearly and logically. It feels superhuman, her ability to constantly overcome and possess no major flaws. Superman is a horrible character because he’s so perfect, it makes him unrelatable to the reader. I fear that Juliette falls into the same characterization. I feel that Holston (whom the first 40 pages are about) is much more fleshed out. He shows compassion and empathy, and he suffers in the loss of his wife in a way that feels real. Juliette too has lost much on her journey, but it never seems to weigh her down in a tangible way.
So there it is. I believe that Hugh Howey has an incredible knack for storytelling, but the execution here left me wanting less. I flew through the first 40 pages and then trudged through the next 460 just to solve the mystery of the beginning of the book, I loved it that much. I recommend Wool to those who love a good thrill ride, but don’t mind it being stretched out and watered down a bit from beginning to end.
Goodreads Rating: 4.25
Recommended for: Conspiracy Theorists, Desert Wanderers, Fans of dirt