Finished: Wool by Hugh Howey 📚

The short version: this is a book that takes the idea of “good writing is about the characters overcoming challenges” to it’s most extreme limit. It’s all suffering and adversity, almost too much. If you can get past that, then it took 2/3 of the book to get going. Maybe it was that way so the long suffering reader gets a real feel for time, and struggle. However, the last 1/3 really moves and was a page turner. I am interested in reading the later books now.

More details below (vague spoiler warning).

I appreciated that the author did not call attention to the things that are hard to believe like submerging a neutral pressure suit under tens and tens of feet of water will just work and you also won’t get the bends during a panic resurfacing, and where are they getting tea from (this only pops up once) or is it actually hundreds of years old, and how come the people don’t develop distinct accents or dialects, and can they really make these things like semiconductors to last that long or do they have even that manufacturing capability??

Some things that people are knowledgable about seem quite a stretch too, given the other things we learn about the world. Like the have-nots just making up military tactics in confined spaces, on the fly with no training in it, that can succeed (for some definition) against a prepared enemy. I am suspicious of the closed ecosystem being able to sustain for that long. But I don’t know enough about ecology to be any more than that about it, so I’ll leave that one there. Or how come there aren’t problems with diseases in the later parts of the story; you’d think separate populations would generate different strains of viruses and when they meet it would be bad for one or both. Where is the underground/black market economy? It really stuck out as something missing from the world to me. There some scenes that described and used the kinds of connections that would enable black or gray market trade to exist, but it seemingly doesn’t play a part in this story.

There may have been a few too many dramatic coincidences to believe, some of them defying even the most generous probabilities.

Even with these cracks and inconsistencies though, if you don’t notice or think about it, then the story is fine. But the veneer over the true science fiction and obvious dramatic or poetic license is only paper thin. Maybe I do prefer hard sf and a little more effort on the part of the writer to make it believable in a somewhat-ordinary-or-at-least-plausible-turn-of-events-for-the-universe-that-they’ve-constructed sense. In the end, I think this story was more of a cartoon depiction than a live action staging.

All that being said, I’m curious how the author arranged all this to exist, which I think is in the first sequel.

Maybe later I will elaborate on the more constructive thought provoking ideas that I had while reading the book. Things like, this is a mirror of our current times (most writing usually is), intra- and inter- nation-state-wise, and how would I arrange a society to function in such isolation, and this is really just a different setting for the same problems and ideas of one of those generation ship scifi stories, isn’t it? I had a lot of “how could this be different” thoughts to many plot points and story choices as I read, I should keep notes on those for the next book I read.

J. Garo @garo