A lot of people will say that Wool is the greatest science fiction novel in decades. And then you’ll have the occasional straggler who says Wool is utterly overrated. The thing is, if you’ve discovered Wool prior to its Simon & Schuster-published release on March 12th, 2013, then you very likely specifically searched for dystopian or post-apocalyptic books—more likely than not, you found Wool on countless Goodreads lists or maybe a blog or two (plus, at the time, Wool’s Omnibus edition was quite cheap)—and with that being said, Wool delivers on its promise (and premise): it is an original science fiction book with dystopian and post-apocalyptic undertones.
What makes Wool so dang good is that I can actually see the world and people he describes; and I—despite the avid reader that I am—have trouble with some science fiction works within the last decade (Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age comes to mind: the concept is good, but its discombobulated with so many scientific terms and ideas that the characters and details are lost in the background; Wool’s characters and locations, on the other hand, are crystal clear). And Hugh Howey never lets the science outweigh the characters. We accept that the characters know what they’re doing; that’s good enough for the reader. Many science fiction writers tend to go overboard on the “science” part of science fiction, rather than the fiction.
The premise is simple. It’s not overly perplexed. People live in underground silos; to control their population, one person is sent out to die in a toxic world (which brings us to the plot of the novel, and the reason for the title—the people are given wool suits to wear; they are given the task to go out into the wastelands, clean the sensors—which are essentially cameras, so everyone else can see the landscape—and then . . . die), and then, after the cleaning, one married couple are given permission to have a child. This processed has gone on for hundreds of years.
Wool begins with a LOST-esque mystery which unravels over the course of a few chapters until we meet the main protagonist, Juliette. That’s as much of the plot that I’ll get into. Just consider Wool as Game of Thrones-esque drama in the confines of an underground silo.
Expect great things from Hugh Howey in the future because the future of science fiction (and self-publishing) is in his hands.