I always feel vaguely disappointed in myself that I don’t really like sci-fi books (a handful of Arthur C Clarke’s being pretty much the exception) considering that sci-fi is one of my favourite TV / film genres but I find a lot of sci-fi books go far too much into detailed world creation at the expense of anything actually seeming to happen and it bores me to tears. I always think “why can’t anyone write any decent sci-fi, as if it were like something on the screen?”. Well someone has, Hugh Howey with Wool, although strictly speaking I’d call it dystopian fiction, although all the reviews seem to call it sci-fi, maybe that’s got something to do with Ridley Scott apparently buying the film rights.

Anyway, Wool is set in a future where the air is so toxic everyone is forced to live underground in a silo, the story opens with the widowed sheriff deciding that he is going to go outside to ‘clean’, an euphemism for a death sentence unless you’re apparently deluded enough to think that you might actually survive. The sheriff’s decision starts a wave of consequences that changes the life of the main character Juliet, a mechanic in the ‘down deep’.

Wool satisfies my demand for plot (and action to, there’s some great sequences that Scott better keep in the film) but also successfully creates an absorbing, well thought out world, where everything from subtle changes in language, changes in diet, to what resources would be highly valued has been well thought through. As well as Juliet, there’s a whole cast of mostly likeable characters (I wasn’t too sure about the love interest and thought that bit was a bit rushed), who when they’re cast into jeopardy it makes the reader genuinely care what’s going to happen. Even the villain sort of has a justification.

My only proper criticism would be that the author was so obviously setting up for a prequel, there were such screaming signposts in the text. I’ve read that there will be one (and a sequel) but the setting up needn’t have been quite that obvious. I’ll probably be proved wrong now but it really looks like the prequel will be about Juliet’s dead lover, as the number of references to his death, even though it had taken part before the start of the story, was getting a bit OTT. Other than that though, loved it.

***** (out of 5)


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