Wool: That Time that Dystopian Literature Got Sophisticated

Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey
Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey

First, I should apologize for my extensive hiatus over the past couple of months. I have had a number of life changes recently which have eaten in to my blogging time. But now that things are settling down a bit, I hope to get back to posting more regularly. For you followers out there, thanks for sticking with me! Let’s get back to the world of literature.

Today I would like to take a moment to review a really interesting book, Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey. This New York Times Bestseller was published in 2013 and though I am only just now getting around to reading it, I am glad to finally have this one under my belt and I am definitely ready to read more. If you’re looking for a fun read that’s Dystopian and a little Sci Fi, this is certainly the book (or series) for you!

This book came to my attention thanks to my book club and we all ended up giving it a very high rating. That’s not too normal for us. We usually have quite a range on the scale.

Wool Omnibus appealed to me for a few reasons. The writer takes the time to set up the world and the order of things. You know the rules and the laws, you know how their lives work and he doesn’t overrun the story with jargon. You get enough details so that you can picture the world in your mind. I also like that the characters skew a bit older. You don’t have to wade through any teenage drama here. Thank god. Dystopian literature for adults. Lastly, I love that this title was first self-published and then picked up by a publisher. It gives hope to all of us writers out there in the world.

As I said above, the first thing I want to address in this book is the fact that it is Dystopian. Wool Omnibus is dinstinctly Dystopian because it is a world that resembles our own (despite the fact that the people have never stepped outside) and possesses a governing body to which we as the reader can relate. There is a mayor and a sherriff and other governing entities. There are executions for misbehavior, though the rules are quite strict and citizens are not allowed to mention “outside” or they will be sent to cleaning immediately.

The main characters in the story skew much older than your typical Dystopian hero/heroine. Dystopian heroes are typically in their teens, at least that is the current trend. I could easily see that changing and I hope it does because you could have many stories that possess more sophistication than your typical teen lit story does. Plus, there is no love triangle (I was getting really tired of that dynamic). Without your stereotypical love triangle, the romance part of the story is interesting and keeps you reading. I suppose that I shouldn’t be too surprised about the prevalence of the love triange in a Dystopian story considering the heritage of the Dystopian novel. Gothic literature is all about triangulation. Somehow, that seems to have been the norm. Mother, father, child. When this triangle is disrupted, it is the catalyst that starts the tale.

Anyway, let’s move on before I get too embroiled in the almighty Gothic.

Wool begins a little disjointedly. I didn’t realize when I started reading that the writer had originally drafted a series of short stories and then fastened them together to make it a novel. When you’re only 100 or so pages in and your main character disappears, it tends to rock the boat a little bit. I was just getting into the thick of it when Howey changes gears. It certainly kept me reading, but left me skeptical for a couple of pages until I readjusted. And luckily, the main characters you pick up later in the story are just as interesting.

One thing that I love about this book is that you get to see the track of the story as it heads ever closer to becoming an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic story. Another positive is the heroine. She is a mechanic and self-sufficient, perhaps to a fault (a strong, smart woman who knows machines!). But as the story follows its arc, you watch her grow and change. All of the characters for that matter are relatable. They may be in this impossible scenario, but the emotions and trials that they deal with are incredible normal and it’s easy to connect with them.

Why this series works: A lot of people get frustrated with Dystopian stories because they occupy such a small physical space in the world that people wonder what happened to the rest of the United States or the other countries. The author of Wool Omnibus took the time to solve for these issues, at least it appears that he has after reading the first book. As I was reading, I didn’t even think about where in the world they were. It just didn’t matter since they are living underground and can’t go outside. You can’t really think about the world around them because the environment is too toxic to travel long distances. They are well and truly isolated. Perhaps this is why this title felt really Sci-Fi to me. The environment feels very foreign.

There is one question that kept going through my head while reading. If these people live in silos and never see daylight, how do they not suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder)? If I ever spoke to the author, I’d probably ask that question, even if it’s a little obnoxious to pose questions like that. I’m just curious.

Personally, I am really excited to read the prequal and the sequal to Wool and I am sort of hoping they wind up under the Christmas tree from Santa Claus. He seems to know my reading tastes pretty well 🙂 So, if you’re looking for a fun holiday read, Wool Omnibus gets my vote!