Review: Wool by Hugh Howey

29/09/2014 Reviews 4

wool book review‘’Get the mayor,’ Holston said. He let out a sigh, that heavy breath he’d been holding for three years.

‘Tell her I want to go outside.’

Warning: Minor Spoilers.

Given my penchant for dystopian fiction, I had high hopes for this book, especially as the concept seemed pretty promising. It veered away from The Hunger Games/Divergent set up of a future humanity split into sections, and instead had them cooped up in a silo with a deadly wasteland of a world left outside, visible only from a window, and forbidden to speak of. Those who express an interest in the world outside get their wish: they are sent outside to ‘cleaning’ and their bodies can be seen lining the hills a short distance from the silo.

However, I found myself a little disappointed with the book. Whilst the concept was as interesting as it had initially promised, the plot wasn’t, and to be honest, seemed like a bit of a mess. For one thing, the book goes through two different protagonists before we finally meet its heroine Juliette, and I was left wondering what the purpose of the first two was.

When the book opens, it seems that Holston, the silo’s sheriff, will be the main character. However, he is sent to cleaning in the first few chapters and we then move on to Mayor Jahns, who having lost her sheriff, decides to journey to Mechanical, at the very bottom of the silo, to hopefully recruit Juliette for the job. Juliette, the actual main character, reluctantly takes on the job of sheriff, and slowly begins to uncover the secrets of the silo, and realize that their world is perhaps not what it seems.

I personally found this switching of protagonists made the book seem a little slow-going. The story only really seemed to pick up when Juliette took on the job of sheriff, yet it took over a hundred pages and an overly detailed description of the elderly Jahns descending over a hundred floors to get to that point. Although learning about how the community of the silo works was necessary, it became a little excessive, and the character-building that went into both Holston and Jahns and then was suddenly thrown away to make way for Juliette seemed like wasted time.

One thing I will say for the book, is that the heroine Juliette (when we finally meet her!) is a great character. Whilst the ‘strong heroine in a dystopian novel’ is starting to get old, Juliette puts a new spin on it. For a start she is in her thirties, so a little older than the Katnisses and Trises, and rather than being a talented fighter, she is cool, collected and intelligent, and definitely a survivor. Her no-nonsense attitude and sense of justice make her a really likable character, yet the way she cares for other people shows a softer side to her tough persona.

What I liked less about Wool was the somewhat ridiculous relationship Juliette has with Lukas, who I suppose could loosely be termed as the novel’s ‘love interest’. My first problem with this was Lukas himself, who seemed a fairly poorly developed, and not particularly likable character. Whereas Juliette gets herself into a bad situation through her determination to learn the truth about the silo and have justice, Lukas gets brought into the very inner circle of the silo’s corruption, and just goes along with it! The second problem was how ridiculously fast the two seemed to fall for each other, especially as the two seemed completely ill-suited anyway (Juliette being strong and determined whilst Lukas seemed a little spineless). The two have a few run-ins in the cafeteria before they are abruptly separated by circumstance, and then seem to spend ages pining for the other, and upon being reunited, quickly fall into a relationship. It was totally unconvincing, and to me there seemed no chemistry at all between the two.

Don’t get me wrong, Wool is far from a terrible book: Juliette is a great character, as are Holston and Jahns (if slightly pointless), and the idea of humanity existing in a silo in a ruined, toxic world was a really promising concept for a dystopian novel. Also, the truth about the silo which is gradually revealed doesn’t disappoint! However, for me it just didn’t quite work. It took too long to get going, and although I was vaguely curious as to the truth about the silo, I began to find it a bit of a chore to read. I also found it hard to really care about Lukas, who was a pretty major character, and his relationship with Juliette was very unconvincing. Although I didn’t absolutely hate the book I can’t say I really enjoyed it, and I’m not really in a hurry to read the sequel!

Rating: 2/5

4 Responses to “Review: Wool by Hugh Howey”

  1. Noelia Alonso

    I haven’t read this book but I have wanted to for a long time now… I was just waiting because I’m a little bit sick of dystopian books (I think the genre is being over-exploited and is always the same in the end) but reading the review has made me realise that this is yet another dystopian book gone wrong. I can’t be bother now to give it a go. Maybe in a very distant future, when dystopia is a bit forgotten, I could try and pick it up.

    • Laura

      I definitely agree that recent dystopian books have all ended up being pretty samey, and whilst there were aspects of Wool which make it a little different, a large part of it was more of the same. Although the writing itself was good, it perhaps could have been better had it been condensed into a shorter, faster paced book (and I have heard that it was initially published in sections as shorter stories, which perhaps would have made it easier to read), as I found it pretty hard-going. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it if your sick of dystopian novels at the moment anyway! Although it does seem to have got a lot of positive reviews elsewhere, so perhaps it’s just me.

  2. Lauren

    I haven’t heard of this book, and like you said, the concept sounds interesting. Unlike alot of people, I am still loving dystopian books and I might pick this up in the future to see what I think, but there are so many books with great reviews out there that it’s probably unlikely.

    • Laura

      If you are still loving the dystopian novels then there are probably some better examples out there. Although I think Wool generally gets quite good reviews, so it might be worth a read. I just personally didn’t really enjoy it. I’d be interested to hear what other people think of it though!

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