Wool (Wool #1)
by Hugh Howey
Broad Reach (2011)
I saw an interesting documentary a few years back that was hosted by Stephen Fry, as he toured the U.S., and one of his stops was a fella who had converted a derelict missile silo into his home. It struck me as extremely odd, but perfect fodder for some kind of story, given the survivalist mentality that went along with the silo owners motivations. Well, I wonder if Hugh Howey saw that documentary, because his dystopian scifi novella takes place in an underground silo that's been converted into a habitat for the survivors of an unknown cataclysm that befell humanity.
The silo has served as home for humans for generations, and Sheriff Holston has enforced the law and order that has held the community together. Above ground is a wasteland, as seen through the monitors, showing a grimy, desiccated wasteland. The cameras require constant cleaning though, to keep that view available to those who can see it below, which is where the condemned come in handy. And Sheriff Holston is the latest to be handed a death sentence, preparing to suit up and step outside the silo, never to return.
Wool works on two levels, as a stand-alone novella depicting a bleak future revealed to be even bleaker, and as the first episode in a series of novellas set in this post-apocalyptic landscape. I have the first five novellas bundled together, which I found on the Kindle Store, but I wanted to take a look at just the first one to see if I'd be compelled to read any further. Sheriff Holston was a conflicted and devastated character, spending his life believing one thing only to have his wife--a woman earlier condemned to leave the silo--shatter his understanding of their world. But, I may be spoiling things to say that the rest of the series doesn't appear to focus on him, instead turning back to the silo and the search for a new sheriff.
The opening chapter is a bit of a slog, taking its time rattling around in Holston's thoughts, but once the stakes are set and the alternating chapters dealing with his wife and her quest for knowledge come to light, the whole story becomes very intriguing and a better appreciation is gained of the universe Howey has created.
If you're into the dystopian stuff, this is worth taking for a test drive, though I'm unsure as to whether to recommend buying the first novella or the bundled five. I got this first one as a free offer on Amazon, then went and bought the bundle, so if you can score a deal like that, go for it.