#CBRV Review 22: Wool by Hugh Howey

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I think I first heard of this book in Wired, when they were discussing the future of publishing. Howey began publishing his work online, first in short stories and the collected version online for Kindle, and then made a deal with Simon and Schuster to distribute print versions only. I mention this not because it has anything to do with a review, but because I am fascinated with the publishing industry in general, and Howey has had some pretty unique success in the business.

The book I read collects the first five stories that Howey wrote, with the more recently published Shift collecting the prequel stories . Wool introduces the reader to the world of the silo, a deep underground structure that seemingly contains all that is left of humanity. It is entirely self sufficient, and informally divided into collections of floors – upper (generally administration), middle (the all powerful IT) and lower (mechanical). The only view to the poisonous outside is a projection onto the wall of the uppermost cafeteria, and the view gets progressively blurrier as the wind and sand scratches the lenses.  The lenses are cleaned, periodically, by people punished by people banished from the silo and sentence to cleaning the device with wool. Given the careful use of resources required, people are unable to have children unless granted an opportunity in the lottery, which is only available when someone else dies.

Howey’s world is enormously detailed, and gives a great sense of the claustrophobia and enormously regulation the residents of the silo are forced to live with. The absolute worst crime one of the residents can commit is to express ideas about wanting to leave, wondering what exactly is out there and how things have happened. Given the tight control of the dense population, ideas are the riskiest currency  in the silo.

The book neatly ties in some elements of crime drama with the more traditional dystopian science fiction tropes. Although I felt it slowed down a little towards the end, I really thought it was a really gripping and fast paced story, particularly the opening chapters that introduced the silo.  I am really looking forward to reading Shift.

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CBR V Review 21: Gulp by Mary Roach

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Well, I love Mary Roach and her books. I reviewed Packing for Mars for CBR III a few years ago, and I loved that too. I received Gulp for my birthday, but a backlog of books kept from getting to it for a few months.

While I found this book amusing and informative as always, I did not love this one as much as her previous one. While the human body is, as always, fascinating, it just didn’t inspire quite as much awe for me as did Packing for Mars. Also, she kind of spent quite a bit of time discussing the science between some really strange physical phenomena, but was maybe a bit too jokey about the suffering of the patients described (a guy with a hole into his stomach experimented upon by a doctor for years, exploding colons, etc).  Those scenes mostly made me sad – it just seemed like a lot of suffering, although the conditions described are certainly interesting. My two favourite chapters are the two about the ones about making cat and dog food that is appealing to them, and the chapter about prison inmates and how they smuggle items into the prison. The prison chapter in particular made me giggle on a plane, laughing about the anal jokes. I guess I am still 12 years old.

The books was certainly good, but I didn’t love it like I did the space and death ones. I think part of it is that there isn’t that much mystique about the digestive system.  Plus, Roach points out there are still a number of taboos surrounding saliva and other digestive issues, so maybe I was predisposed to not like it quite as much.

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Preserving Summer

A few weeks ago I got the last box of peaches at the fruit truck, and let them ripen a bit. I ended up canning seven litres of peaches. They are just so delicious – I can’t believe I haven’t done that before. I might try to do some pears, if I can still find some fresh. I used the very simple recipe from Food in Jars.

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I also finished canning my beets when I was home sick for a few days. Sometimes it is so hard to find the time to finish a project with small kids running around, always having a class or something to do.

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My golden beets did not germinate well this year, and some of the chiogga beets were stolen from the garden, but I saved enough to do up a few litres of them together. Last year my harvest was better, so did jars made up entirely of golden beets, but the mix of the two has made for a much rosier brine. They are so pretty. The others are just normal Bull’s Blood beets – such a dark red-purple. I forgot the salt in my last batch, but the salt is for flavour rather than a key ingredient in preservation, so that should be fine. That might be it for me this year, until I do a few jars of marmalade closer to Christmas.