Mini-Review: Wool, the Omnibus Edition

If you want classic sci-fi dystopian post-apocalyptic in the era of self-publishing, guys: this is it.

Life in the silo is simple: you learn, you work, you die.  Everything you do is for the good of the silo.   Even when you die, you're buried in the gardens so that the nutrients from your body feed the plants.

Man, those beefsteak tomatoes were extraordinarily beefy this year!
The silo is not only your home, but it is the only thing protecting you from the fierce winds, toxins, and other nasty substances Outside.  The Outside isn't anything to look at, unless you like nuclear destruction and air that's a particularly potent blend of toxins.  Plus, looking at the corpses of those who have been sent for Cleaning doesn't really do wonders for one's mood.  But at least those soon-to-be corpses scrubbed the lenses of the silo's cameras free of icky chemical buildup before collapsing and becoming a part of the landscape.  Waste not, want not.

Wool is classically dystopian.  Everyone thinks life is fine, we're in control, but then someone challenges the status quo and the house of cards starts to fall.  The people in power do anything and everything to keep their position, but do you hear the people sing?  That's right; it's the song of angry, bloody revolution.   However, Wool features incredibly complex characters and enough twists and turns to make your brain sore.  It's not just "another dystopian."  It's a standout in its genre, and really, transcends any sort of genre fiction pooh-poohing that's a regular feature of book reviewers.  I expect that reviewers for the NYT and other Fancy Publications with A Pedigree look something like this:

If you think about it, the best science fiction and fantasy books all circle back to the concept of humanity and the basic questions we all ask about our existence.  These books just do it with hostile environments and improbable creatures instead of a life study of someone in his flat in London, or a lady's existential crisis while volunteering in the Congo.  In the end, the message is the same: humanity is wonderfully diverse yet perversely hell-bent on destroying itself.  Is this an essential part of our nature, or is there yet hope for changing our future?

Sheriff Holston obsesses over the Cleaning of his wife, Alison.  After poring through database files, she believed she had found proof that the camera feeds were deliberately being altered to show a false landscape.  How else to explain all of the extra computing power needed by IT?  So two years ago, she uttered the fateful words that are a death sentence: I want to go Outside.  And two years later, Holston follows her, only to find disillusionment before death.

The loss of the sheriff sets into motion events that will forever change the silo.  Deputy Marnes, never wishing the big job for himself, suggests a mechanic who works in the Down Deep: Juliette.  The head of IT, Bernard, has someone else in mind.  But Marnes has the mayor's ear--and her heart--so Jules gets the job.  And loses it in as many days.  Sent for cleaning as punishment for poking too inquisitively into the files that sent Alison and Holston Outside, Jules discovers that they aren't alone. Unfortunately, that realization isn't exactly comforting.

Wool is a tale of the domino effect: how one person, one discovery, one chance meeting, or one flirtation can change everything.  It's dramatic and rich and features a fierce, smart, vulnerable female protagonist.  Jules is Katniss with a wrench instead of a bow and arrow.

Equal parts hopeful and ominous, Wool is a stunning series opener and a prime example of serialized fiction in the modern age.



  1. Sounds a bit like Blake's7, a British TV series of the late 70s/early 80s. Everyone is living in domes, being fed drugs to make them placid and being told that there is nothing but nuclear destruction Outside(yes, with a capital O). And nobody is to communicate with Outsiders. Except, of course, the rebel movement. And Outside has recovered long ago, as we learn very early on. But the series moved off Earth after the first episode, with our heroes being sent to a penal colony planet and escaping.

    1. Oooh, that sounds like something I'd be into! I wish we got more of the older British/Aussie TV series here and not just Doctor Who and Sherlock.


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