Hugh Howey – Wool

It’s all Luke‘s fault. Yet again. If you want to hear a recommendation that will make you crave this book, listen to his podcast episode. He does a fantastic job of telling you just enough to get you interested but spoiling nothing. Luke Burrage is one of those trusted book recommending engines I use. I don’t love everything he loves and I loved some books he disliked but overall, he is so great of just making me want to read books I otherwise would have totally overlooked. Thanks for a great tip!

by Hugh Howey

published: Create Space, 2011-2012
ISBN: 1469984202
pages: 457
copy: ebook
series: Wool #1-5

my rating: 8,5/10
goodreads rating: 4.49/5

first sentence: The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do.

The blurb: The first Wool story was released as a standalone short in July of 2011. Due to reviewer demand, the rest of the story was released over the next six months. My thanks go out to those reviewers who clamored for more. Without you, none of this would exist. Your demand created this as much as I did. This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

As this starte out as a short story with another short story added and then another and then another two, I will have to do this review a bit differently too. Because while this omnibus edition tells one rounded and amazing tale, each story deserves its own remarks and has its own strenghts and weaknesses. Also, I have to be extremely vague at times because there is so much potential for spoilers. There will be none here, you can read this safely.


This first and really very short story in the series shows us the life of the sheriff of the Silo where the entire story takes place. His job is taking care that laws are obeyed and that – in case of infringement – the criminal is sent to cleaning, the capital punishment in the Silo. Humanity, or what’s left of it, lives in this very deep Silo under the earth, a sort of bunker that protects people from the toxic atmosphere above grounds. A set of cameras above the silo give these people at least a glimpse of the outside world. But being poisonous and dirty as it is, the air usually makes the camera lenses quite dirty after a while. And when somebody goes to clean them, it’s a one-way trip.
Three years ago, the sheriff’s wife asked to leave the Silo of her own free will, seemingly because of some information she discovered (hidden by the IT department). From this point on, his life changed forever. The sheriff watches his beloved wife clean the camera lenses with her patch of wool and walk towards the top of a hill where she stumbles…

I was surprised at how much I cared about the characters. And how quickly. I can’t put my finger on it – even after reading the entire series – but Hugh Howey has a way with words that just makes me like his characters. The sheriff’s sadness was tangible. Imagining him watching his wife walk into certain death was heartbreaking. And, of course, the biggest pleasure I got out of this is knowing that there is so much more I don’t know yet. Slowly discovering all the little facts and secrets about the silo and the IT department was incredible fun. And Howey never gives away too much or too little.

Wool 2 – Proper Gauge

In this volume, which is still quite short, we follow the Mayor, who along with the sheriff, is one of the most powerful people of the Silo. She may be ageing but she clearly has the best of the Silo at heart. However, there is one political position that needs a new face – and it is exactly for that reason that she walks down from the top levels of the Silo all the way to the bottom, a journey of several days. On her various stops and rests in between, we get to see more of the Silo and how it works. And a meeting with the head of the IT department creates more questions than it anwsers…

Not a single boring page could I find in this story (or the first one, for that matter). Again, characters come to life within a matter of paragraphs and as different from the sheriff’s perspecitve this one may be, as great was my enjoyment. We are still seeing this underground world only out of one limited perspective but the mayor is a clever woman and her thoughts help the reader get creative. I still couldn’t have guessed most of the secrets but it was fun guessing. This second part ends in a very evil cliffhanger so you’ll want to get this omnibus edition. Trust me on that.

Wool 3 – Casting Off

Wow! In the third part, which is already clearling longer than its predecessors, we get to know Juliette, a smart mechanic from the lower levels of the Silo. Her quick mind and caring heart make her see things others may miss and discover some secrets better left alone. Juliette is by far my favorite character, even though the mayor is a close second. Apart from the madness that is the Silo, there are also signs of a very tender and subdued love story. How authors can surprise you. There I was, thinking I had Hugh Howey all figured out and gauged his style of writing, and then he makes me care about yet another set of characters. I actually wanted them to be together. The author definitely made me feel the feels in this one and with this cliffhanger he acquired a new fan. I wanted to shout “Awesome!” and scream “whaaaat?” all at the same time. :entsetzt:

Wool 4 – The Unraveling

Yes! Finally we get to know some of the big secrets of the Silo and why it exists in the first place. This is also the first volume that opens up the narrator’s perspective to several characters. We’re not “stuck” with only one person and their views any more, we get to see different levels of the Silo and different people with different kinds of power. One of the point-of-view characters is even employed in the IT department. And finding out what the fuck is going on in there has been the biggest question (for me) of all. I caught myself quite giddy and excited while reading this.

Maybe I should mention that Howey also has no problem killing his characters off. So whenever somebody I like is in danger, I really fear for them. Because, let’s face it, there are plenty more people in the Silo who could continue telling this story, right? So the characters I’ve come to love are in actual danger and the reading experience becomes all the more thrilling. And the closer I got to the end, the sadder I was to let them go – one way or another.

Wool 5 – The Stranded

This is the first time I can say anything negative about this book at all. And the one little thing that bothered me was the fact that the plot dragged a bit in the beginning. As Luke said in his podcast review, this is probably due to the fact that the books/stories were meant to be read after publication and not in one go. So all the author did was catching us up on recent events and reminding us of all the awesome and terrible things that happened before. However, I did read this in one go (I couldn’t have stopped!) and this made the beginning of the last part a bit tedious. It does pick up again, of course, and gives us a surprisingly well-rounded ending.

There are still tons of questions unanswered (book 6 is waiting for me already) but this particular story that was told in five instalments is finished. The ending was satisfying, closed the story arc beautifully and – I admit it – very unexpectedly. I thought we would get another cliffhanger or simply stop somewhere. But Hugh Howey turns out to be an extremely good writer. No matter what people say about self-published writers (I hear the omnibus has been picked up by Random House recently), this one deserves to be published in a beautiful, fat hardback. Whenever it is published, I’ll get my copy for the bookshelf.

THE GOOD: Well-written, fantastic characters, intriguing setting and so many mysteries and questions, your head will smoke from trying to guess.
THE BAD: The beginning of part five was a teensy bit long-winded.
THE VERDICT: Highly recommended! Do yourself and your nerves a favor and get the omnibus. You will not want to stop reading at pretty much any point in this story.

RATING: 8,5/10  Eight-and-a-half excellent Silo levels

The Wool/Silo Series:

  1. Wool
  2. Proper Gauge
  3. Casting Off
  4. The Unraveling
  5. The Stranded
  6. First Shift