Wool by Hugh Howey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I went into this knowing nothing but the title and was somewhat dismayed by the premise of a pocket of survivors of humanity on a destroyed, toxic, dystopian Earth. Nevertheless, the characters seemed interesting enough – Sheriff Holston, Mayor Jahns, Deputy Marnes…
And then Howey goes GRRM and kills them all off and leaves us in an even worse situation:
»The silo was rotten to the core; an evil man was acting Mayor; a puppet stood where a good sheriff had been; and all the good men and women were gone.«
Enter Jules, a gifted technician – who’s sent off to face certain death next; or perhaps death is not so certain after all?
The entire beginning was slow-paced and disillusioning: We get introduced to potentially interesting people who are promptly taken away. Most of their backstories are never told, many important facts omitted and only ever alluded to but never properly resolved.
Sadly, the pacing is also very uneven: Initially, we accompany the characters at a leisurely pace, then things get rushed, literally, through the door. Immediately after, the pace slows down to a crawl but at least some suspense is building up – only to quickly and easily dissipate.
This pattern repeats itself: We’re watching the protagonists act, everything is moving quickly, then we “zoom in” on some (usually disastrous) detail and wade through endless descriptions of how those characters feel and how incredibly dark the darkness is.
Unfortunately, the characters are neither very interesting, nor do they have depth but mostly appear as sketches of well-known archetypes. Thus, it’s hard to root for or even like any of them. I for one only liked Jules for her unbreakable spirit and iron will but that’s it. Her love interest is an unlikeable, opportunistic, weak individual. Jules’ main adversary is a malicious follower who claims to be just carrying out orders and shirks any personal responsibility.
Except for Jules herself, I didn’t care about the fate of any of the characters. I also kept wondering where the story would go: Will Jules rescue her silo? Will she establish a better society?? (And how?) Will she choose to remain at the other location? What will happen to the people she encounters on her journey? Will we learn more about the backstory of the silo’s origins? What will the future look like?
None of these questions are ever answered or even alluded to. The ending also felt very rushed and so many unlikely things happened (particularly with one character who underwent a completely unbelievable transformation).
So, characters without depth, a likeable heroine, uneven pacing, suspenseful page-turner parts, plot holes that could fit galaxies, a passionate rebellion and friendship, many stairs and much darkness, and lots of good intentions as can be deduced from the story and the epilogue:
»This collected work is dedicated to anyone who dares dream of a better place.«
For this uneven “ride” of a read: Three out of five stars.
Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam
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Wool by Hugh Howey