It’s been a long time since I’ve been so completely sucked into a fictional world like I have been recently with Wool. I’m working through the two sequels now, and am happy to report the depth of the world continues to grow, as does my interest in it. I read, watch, and play a lot of fiction, and I enjoy them, certainly, but I rarely get obsessive about the world building that goes into them.
So what makes the world of Wool so special? Well, it’s an actual dystopia for a start. People often confuse post-apocalyptic with dystopian literature. While they’re not mutually exclusive, a dystopia is something that can exist anywhere, even when the rest of civilization is buzzing along normally. A dystopia is simply the opposite of a utopia, an ideal society. I find the idea of dystopias, both real and fictional, absolutely fascinating.The dystopian society of Wool is interesting and well thought out; you’ll only want to learn more as you get further and further into the book.
Wool also succeeds by not giving away too much too quickly. Things are revealed slowly, the author savoring every mystery, every tease, every new little bit of evidence. This sort of narrative discipline is hard to pull off for many writers, which is why it’s so damn satisfying to see done well.
Finally, and this is a relatively minor point for many of you, I love Wool because it features a female protagonist who is never threatened with rape. Sadly, that’s damn refreshing.
I suppose it’s about time we started discussing the world of Wool. Set a few hundred years into a post-apocalyptic future, the bedraggled remains of humanity are locked inside an enormous, subterranean silo. Inside the silo is a highly regimented society, with people separated by occupations, all in color-coded overalls and living on different levels of the sprawling structure. Outside the silo is a horrific, toxic wasteland where nothing can survive.
Inside the silo there is a government of sorts, include a mayor and a sheriff, however we’re also clued into the power wielded by the IT department. This seems extremely incongruous at first, especially considering how primitive the technology is in much of the silo. Eventually, as the story develops, IT’s role begins to make more and more sense, and becomes increasingly sinister.
Wool begins when Sheriff Holston does the unthinkable: he demands to go outside. The society inside the silos treat this as the ultimate act of defiance, and punish it most appropriately by sending the person outside, just as they wished. Holston is to perform a cleaning, a ritualistic public execution in which he is sent outside to die, but also to clean off the lenses of the camera that give the silo’s inhabitants their only view of the outside world. He’s fitted with a special environmental suit, which will allow him enough time to clean off the cameras, and little else.
But when he emerges outside, he’s shocked at what he sees.
Intrigued? Excellent. Holston’s story makes up only the first, and shortest, part of the novel. From there the mystery deepens and we’re introduces to Juliette, the hero of the series.
Wool isn’t a perfect book; it has some pacing issues in the second part, and has a bad habit of introducing too many characters near the end without sufficient development.Despite this, its flaws are very easy to overlook in light of everything it does right, which is pretty much everything else.