Wool by Hugh Howey

book jacket with title "wool" showing sky and green hill on field of staticWool by Hugh Howey, (2011) This book is science fiction, set in the far future, with people living in 100 story silos without the majority of the people being aware that there are other silos with living people as well. Cartoon villain, but it is hard to write good villains.

This book was a pretty good read, despite my criticisms here. It started out pretty interesting with the world building, but I had a lot of trouble suspending my disbelief that anyone designing silo underground living would NOT HAVE AN ELEVATOR. The whole protagonists must overcome “obstacles” is routine, but usually the obstacles should be believable. 100 stories and lots of equipment and so on, yet no explanation to justify why no elevators. Maybe I missed some sentence or two somewhere offering some lame excuse but I would think that it would be a critical component. However, the desire to have “runners” who pound up and down stairs (geez, not even a DUMBWAITER) to carry stuff and messages is so absurd that it really spoiled the book for me entirely. Of course, I could predict that there would be a fight and that the ability to blockade said SINGLE stairwell would be a crucial plot element (one I just started flipping through yada yada yada). Similarly, it was totally obvious that the second tube [spoiler alert, although of course you will guess before getting there anyway] would have one more person lurking.

The author, I believe, might have self published first (I read somewhere) as a short story and was encouraged to make a full length book, and that could explain some of the editorial oversights. Like part way through the book when he apparently figured out that if they had computers they had email and therefore did not need runners for messages and no ticking clock while the runner ran, so he just came up with some silly nonsense where the protagonist wonders why they hadn’t been allowed or whatever to use email.

Anyway, it was okay but needed a serious edit to fix some of the flaws and rewrite to deal with them. This is one element that my own attempts to write fiction have stumbled against. I constantly ask things like “Why would the bad guy just not kill anyone in the way? Like the endless James Bond elaborate methods of killing him for no particular reason other than so that he can escape. These things can be forgivable, but have to be at least acknowledged for the wink and a nod it means by the author acknowledging the silliness.

Endless descriptions of physical effort to scuba dive and such was just too much too bear, you know she is not going to die, so it is just a bunch description about made up stuff to make more “obstacles” to overcome. The author proves himself a good writer in general, so hopefully he will improve his obstacle inventions in the next book.

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