Wool / Omnibus: Make your Choice
I finished reading Wool / Omnibus a few days ago. If you want one captivating book (or rather pentalogy) to read by the end of the year, then this is it. The five books grew from a short story, Wool, published electronically. The author, Hugh Howey, continued to publish Wool 2-5, and then compiled all five books into one volume, which he published independently. With hardly any PR from his side, the Wool series became incredibly popular, and it is among the top Kindle bestsellers this year. In fact, now that Simon & Schuster have bought the dead-tree publication rights in the US, amazon.com stopped selling the independently-published hardback and paperback editions, making my copy something of a collector’s item. You can still get the Kindle though.
What is Wool / Omnibus about? I would like to say that what follows is a spoiler-free review, but as any review, you will still get some idea of the book’s plot from me before the story unfolds by the author. I read the book without even looking at the back cover blurb, and I believe that approaching this book in complete ignorance, as a tabula-rasa, will give you the best experience. One of the great joys in reading the Wool books was the way Howey reveals his world to us. A large part of Wool is about the choices we make in what we want, and do not want to know about the world we live in. And in this respect, Howey blends story content and storytelling form into the best read I have had… well… longer than I can remember.
So I will leave you with three Wool-world like choices: 1. you can stop here (and get the book); 2. you can see the video claymation of Plato’s Cave allegory below. This will give you an idea of one of the prevalent themes of Wool, without actually giving you any plot details; 3. you can see the video and / or read the text following it: very few plot details after the jump, but you are no longer a blank slate.
How much do you want to know?
It’s a post-apocalyptic world. Thousands of people are living in a mostly underground structure called the Silo. They do not know their history: as far as they know, the Silo was always there, placed by benevolent gods. Their only connection to the outside world is a set of cameras that project the dead world outside. But are the camera really showing what is out there? There was an uprising of Silo residents in the distant past, but nobody remembers much, and even the powerful IT section that keeps all historical records does not have them. Or maybe IT does have them. The Pact, the Silo’s constitution, is incredibly restrictive: to control population growth, only a few lucky couples can procreate based on a lottery, you cannot even love without registering as a couple. To maintain law & order, you are not allowed to express any curiosity about the outside. If you do, you get what you wish for. The people that go outside die within view of the cameras, but not before they enthusiastically clean them… and why would a condemned person provide a service to the society that killed him?
Reading Wool 1, I was reminded of Plato’s Cave allegory: what is reality? Given the ability to learn more, do even we want to ? In Wool 2-5, things develop, and the books explore many more themes: love, human curiosity, loyalty, and social contracts: how much is the individual responsible for the welfare of the populace? Is it ethical to keep vital knowledge from the population even if, once certain things are revealed they are in danger of annihilating their own society? Can the social fabric survive only of its legacy is kept secret?
OK, I should really stop here. Over/out. Get the book.