Wool (book review)

Thanks to Nicolas Chopin, I took Wool to Croatia as part of my summer read survival package! This book actually started as a short story, then as short stories, written directly for Kindle by the author Hugh Howey, and the printed book is “only” a post-processing of those short stories. Two more books are planned in the series. Look out for spoilers in the following!

“And that’s when Juliette realised what she must do. A project to put the wool back from everyone’s eyes, a favor to the next fool who slipped up or dared to hope aloud. And it would be easy. ” Wool

The plot of Wool is rather standard: a group of people forced to live in autarcy in an underground shelter because of a contaminated outside world. The shelter (called the silo) is highly functional and unravels to be designed against the outside contamination, which leads some inhabitants of the silo to question the reason for being stuck there for generations, with  no memory of the catastrophic events that led to this collective internment. Some among those wonder hard enough to challenge the authorities of the silo and, while most of those are exiled outside to a quick and painful death, one manages to escape and eventually uncovers the truth. Or part of the truth.

While I generally like those post-apocalyptic and closed universes where the inhabitants have to recycle and reinvent everything from the available material, a modern version of the Robinson (Crusoe vs. Swiss family) novels, I am a wee disappointed with this aspect of Wool, because the silo was supposedly created towards this goal of hosting a group of people for centuries and thus should have the proper amenities, without technicians loosing track of things like radio transmission in so few generations. (Of course, there is this special drug inoculated to [almost] all inhabitants of the silo that is erasing past memories but…)  The power struggle in Wool also sounds weak in that the domination of the IT unit should have been more obvious from the start. Reading the prologue to the second volume, Shift, I wonder how well it connects with the first one, if it may be trying too hard to explain the past and how the silo was designed with the catastrophe in mind. Overall, it reads more like young adult science fiction than a major book. But it was nonetheless enjoyable for a summer read!

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