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Wool: A Review

January 25, 2014 Leave a comment

As this is my first review, I decided I would outline how I am going to “grade” what I read. I am sure this method will be tweaked with each review until it is perfected, but one always needs a starting point, right?

There will be a couple grading categories: the prose, the characters, the plot, the setting, the originality, and, the most subjective of all, how great a book it was to read. I will rank each from 1 to 5: 1 being low and 5 being high. Additionally, I will write a small blurb about each to justify my rankings. At the end, I will average all the rankings and give the book an “overall” score.

Quickly, the prose will refer to how well-written the book is. Simple writing will garner a lower score; sophisticated writing will garner a higher score. The characters will refer to how believable the novel’s characters were (again, a 5 indicating very believable and a 1 indicating less-than-believable characters). The plot will refer to the overall story arc (well-crafted plots will score higher and poorly thought out plots will score lower). The setting, of course, will refer to the setting…this will matter more when I review science fiction novels as they tend to have worlds which require, to an extent, well-thought out settings. The originality will refer to how original I find the novel to be: I know everything has been thought of before and there are likely books that could be compared to any of what I choose to read, but I will rank it on what I have read before. I am always willing to hear from other readers why or why not something is “original.” And, finally, how great a read the book is: I will rank this solely on how much I enjoyed reading the book. All categories are fairly subjective and, again, I am excited to hear other opinions. I will try my best to include examples from the novel to justify any of my categories.

So, let’s get to it.

Wool by Hugh Howey

From Hugh Howey's web site

From Hugh Howey’s web site

Background: I read this book for a reading group I will be attending soon. It was the first book on our list of “end of the world” novels, so I was looking forward to a strong start.

The Prose: 3 of 5
I almost feel bad ranking any part of this book lower than a 4 because I enjoyed it so much, but, if I am honest with myself, the writing was not exactly “sophisticated” by any means. However, I would not go so far as to say it was “simple.” Especially when I am going to rank this book higher in other areas. The author’s writing is the vessel for the characters, plot, and setting. If I follow this logic, then if the writing were “poor,” the other areas could not be held in high esteem.

The writing was not sophisticated, but it was not too simple either. I would consider it pretty average in terms of how well it flowed. It was not poetic, but it worked well enough to convey the characters and the story. The more important piece of the book, truly, is the characters.

The Characters: I liked most of the characters in the book. They were believable people. I don’t want to give much away, but the “primary” characters in each part were human. They had flaws, they had histories, they had life. Juliette grew on me (as I was a little unhappy with the shift in characters near the beginning of the book. Again, I don’t want to give anything away). There were a couple secondary characters that were slightly bland, in my eyes. Especially a character named Shirly. She sort of became important near the end of the novel and I was actually a little bored by her. She lacked some depth the other characters did. She had a recent history that the reader witnesses, but for some reason this history does not translate into any sort of empathy/sympathy from the reader. What saved these parts of the novel were other characters like Walker. He was also a secondary character who could have used some more depth, but he was interesting enough for me to wish I had more information about him. Even Solo, a character from other silo (explained below) made me want more, but when all is said and done, Hugh Howey did a great job crafting characters I cared to follow through an unfamiliar world.

The Plot: 4 of 5
Hugh Howey does a good job of crafting a believable story. In considering the plot, I am considering the crafting of the plot. How does Hugh Howey move the story along? Both effortlessly and frighteningly. At one point in the novel, I actually became afraid that I would not get to follow a certain set of characters for any length of time. But, somehow, Hugh Howey made me forget this fear almost effortlessly by introducing new, engaging characters as well as new layers of the story each time. I gave the plot a 4 because I felt the story moved along well. I was never bored. The story was always evolving in some way: the reader learned something new every chapter or so. When a writer can keep a story interesting at each turn of the plot, that writer should get a kudos.

The Setting: 4 of 5
I gave the setting a 4 as well because of the author’s story crafting. Any time a reader begins a new science fiction novel, the reader has to become acclimated to the new setting. A setting has to be immediately somewhat believable or it is harder to invest the time and attention to the story. Hugh Howey introduces his readers to the silo immediately by showing Holston, a main character, ascending the spiraling stairs inside the silo. In Wool, a silo is a large, underground city of people. There are numerous levels, each with housing and hydroponic farms. At the bottom of the silo, the mechanics work to keep the city running: power. At the top of the silo, the mayor works to keep the silo working in a different way. At the top of the silo is the door to the outside. Hugh Howey slowly introduces parts of the setting at each chapter and part, slowly fleshing out his unique world….

The Originality: 4 of 5
…Which leads me to originality. I gave the book a 4 once more because the setting is so good. I kept telling my dad while I read the book that it was so interesting. Hugh Howey truly conceives an “end of the world” scenario (which is revealed slowly) that is completely believable. As long as you can suspend your disbelief at the beginning that an underground silo can exist as a city, you can enjoy an incredibly engaging world. The silo is simply a large bunker.

Good Read: 5 of 5
You have probably already guessed that I enjoyed the book. It was one of the better science fiction books I have read in a while. I read it quickly. I found excuses to read it. I found extra time to read it. I wanted to read it all the time. I had minor issues with certain characters and certain shifts (near the beginning), but I found myself devouring the book (something that I find happening less and less the more I read).

Overall:

Although the writing was pretty average, the story was engaging. The setting was especially believable and entertaining (very important for any science fiction novel). The silos and the inner workings of the silos were well explained and conceived. The characters were believable and properly enraged/confused/unaware of their past (oh, they were very unaware of how humans got to be in silos).

I especially enjoyed the title of the book, Wool, which relates to the wool that “cleaners” use when they leave the silo and wash the camera lenses. This is pretty important: those who wish to leave the silo are taken out to clean. At the top of the silo is the entrance to the silo from outside. There are cameras looking out across a grey landscape. It is these cameras that need a nice cleaning every now and then. And those who choose to see the outside never come back. They go out to clean with wool…effectively pulling wool over the eyes of those inside (and, in turn, the wool is pulled over the cleaner’s eyes as it turns out).

Anyway, try the book out if you like end of the world stories. I welcome opinions.

Back Again

January 19, 2014 1 comment

It has been far too long since I blogged. I would like to give excuses (which would mostly include work), but it comes down to me not motivating myself. I have myself to blame. But, I am back.

I graduated almost two years ago, so it is time to move away from the musings of a recent English undergrad and toward musings on my favorite things: books, writing, and learning.

In the past year, I have read many books (Russian literature and science fiction alike). I have written a good amount of a potential novel. I have also began to teach myself Russian (a whole new adventure that I am enjoying as much as reading new novels).

This year, I want to share my writing experiences (the frustrations, the questions, the (hopefully) successes), my reading experiences (which means trying my hand at writing reviews), and my learning experiences (the difficulties of learning a language on my own). I hope anyone who still reads my blog and the new people who begin to read, find the above to be entertaining and interesting.

My first post (after this one) will be a review on Hugh Howley’s Wool, which I read for a reading group I will attend later in the month. Let me preface that post by saying that it was one of the more interesting science fiction novels I have read in the past year.