Thursday, June 5, 2014

REVIEW: Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey

Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1)Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2012
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Series: Silos #1
Awards: None
Format: Audio
Narrated By: Minnie Goode

I finally broke down and read this one after the avalanche of everybody, everywhere really loving it and talking about it got so enormous that it could no longer be chalked up as some Fifty Shades of Grey-esque hysteria. I think the tipping point was that it was a pick for the Sword and Laser Podcast book Club and both hosts really liked it.

In case you are the one person who hasn’t heard, Wool started out as a self-published dystopian novella. It occurs sometime in the future when the only remaining humans are confined to living in huge underground Silos because the outside environment is so toxic. The omnibus edition pulls together five shorter stories into a longer continuous narrative. For me the breakdown seemed more natural as three distinct parts: the shorter tale of the sheriff which starts the book, the shorter tale of the Mayor and then a longer story centered on Juliet. One leads to the others and they work well as combined.

The premise is that basically there are secrets. Lots of secrets. And there is something that just doesn’t smell right. The question it poses (which I’ve seen before, most recently in the YA novel Across the Universe by Beth Revis) is how best to keep humanity going when there are a just a few of you and you live in tight quarters – tyranny or complete freedom and honesty? Humans are pretty good at surviving but we’re also pretty great at self-destruction. It’s a pretty interesting moral question that ultimately there’s only one right answer to – or is there? :0) It cracked me up that the big bad was IT. Of COURSE they’re the evil ones! Anyway, it’s a book where there are lots of things to figure out and twists and turns. It’s also got a well-developed society and culture that is easily believable.

I thougth the first two short stories focusing on the sheriff and the mayor were really excellent. If the book had just been those two short stories or had just been all about the Mayor I likely would have adored this book. Both of these characters were WAY more interesting to me then Juliet, or Bernard or Lucas. Unfortunately, most of the book focuses on the stories of these folks and I also felt like there were some storytelling mistakes made in this latter 2/3rds. One of the characters has a change of heart which seems to come out of nowhere. A romance is attempted but I felt it was pretty superfluous and fell flat. Basically the emotion in this latter part of the book felt more forced and clunky then in the highly genuine first two stories.

I also have to mention the narration which in my opinion was really horrible and may have affected my feelings about the book. A lot of Minnie Goode’s voices were cartoonish, particularly her men. She also gave many of the characters really thick and disparate accents which if they had all been cooped up in this Silo for generations wouldn’t all their accents have flattened out? I don’t envy the job she had – there is a pretty large cast of speaking roles but all the more reason to have employed someone who was particularly good with voices to read the audio. If I hadn’t paid money for it I would have put it down and picked up the print at the library.

Final Verdict: It was good and I liked it. Check it out but for the love of god not in the audio version!

Addendum: I do wonder if it would be getting the acclaim it does, the very high ratings etc… if it had been a conventionally published book?  Do people have lower standards for self-published?  I think I do – I wasn’t expecting much and I have to say it is likely why I avoided it for as long as I did until people I trusted said yup it is in fact readable and good.   Is this me being a horrible snob??  How do you discover quality self-published literature?  So many questions!

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