Saturday, 25 August 2012

Wool Series

Titles: Wool; Proper Gauge; Casting Off
Series: Wool #1-3
Author: Hugh Howey
Pages: 298 total (ebook)
Published: July/November/December 2011
Published by: Broad Reach Publishing

Blurb from the omnibus edition (Wool #1-5)
This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

The world has gone to pot, and what remains of humanity resides within a silo: a self-sufficient tower with all they need to survive. Including a window onto the outside, so they can always see the corrosion of the planet due to the toxic atmosphere. The very worst crimes are punishable by cleaning: being sent outside to clean the camera lenses which give them this picture, shortly followed by certain death in spite of the protective suits they are given.

I'll hold my hands up and admit that I started reading this series because they were free ebooks. What's not to like about that? Free stuff is always good! It gives me a chance to explore new authors, and if I don't like them it doesn't even matter 'cos it doesn't cost a thing - a win/win situation the way I see it. But this series is definitely an overall win: I've read the three books over the past two and a half months and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them.

They all follow a separate character, but the progression from character to character makes sense, and all follows and continues the thread of the same story. They each have a distinct voice and move the story forwards in their own way, slowly showing you something of the extent of the corruption within the silo.

First is Holston, the sheriff of the silo. His story unfolds both the present day, and with flashbacks to three years earlier when his wife had gone crazy and demanded to be let outside. The descriptions of life within the silo are well done, and you aren't overloaded with details being thrown at you. They're slipped in naturally in the narrative, and you build up a picture throughout each of the books. By the end of the book, you find out what caused his wife's actions, and come to a shocking realisation about the internal workings of the silo.

Book two picks up right after, this time with Mayor Jahns providing the story. She and the deputy sheriff - Marnes - set off on a journey down the depth of the silo, right to the Mech levels right at the very bottom. This one has more of an information-y feel, giving you more about the functioning of the silo and the power struggles, as well as more clues to the underlying conspiracy. Complete with another shock ending, you are slowly pulled more and more into this world.

The third book followed Juliette as she tries to adjust to life on the top levels after spending decades down in the Mech level. She understands machines, not people, but the analogies she draws between the two are wonderful. Her journey is probably my favourite thus far and I really like her character. She's smart, and quickly gets to grips with the things she needs to, even when thrown in a little at the deep end. The end of this book is the most gripping of the three, and I'm incredibly interested to see what happens in the next book.

Howey has created a wonderfully unique voice for each character, the life they've lived tinting the way they think, the way they see and understand the world and those around them. The silo is well thought out, though the world-building is limited, namely because of the limitations of the whole world being confined to a tower. The plot doesn't really suffer because of this, though. It's interesting and goes along at a good pace. Each book is longer than the last (70, 107 and 122 pages respectively), so each story arc is given more time to develop as you learn more.

Obviously, you know things that the characters in books 2 and 3 don't know - you've followed the progression of events and are party to things that they just can't know, so you have a much more complete view of things than either of them do. You have to sit through them discovering or working out things that you already know, but for the most part this isn't a significant issue. There's usually some new information divulged during the course of this, and the story doesn't drag as a result of this necessary rehashing.

My one real complaint with this book is a technical one rather than a literary one: books 4 and 5 no longer seem to be available as stand-alone novels, which means I'll have to invest in the 1-5 omnibus to finish the story. Of course, what happens at the end of book 3 means that this will definitely be happening at some point! A gripping tale, and one which has me quite eager to get back to Wool's world.

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