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.