REVIEW: Wool by Hugh Howey

WOOL (Wool Trilogy #1)
by Hugh Howey

RELEASE DATE: 17 January 2013
FORMAT: Hardback, 390 pages
GENRE: Dystopian, Science Fiction

In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies. To live, you must follow the rules. But some don’t. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside. Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last. (front book cover, Amazon)


Wool is an epic story in every sense of the word. It is the epic struggle of a colony of people living, loving and working in a silo, its is the epic struggle of a small group of people trying to find the truth and the epic struggle of the very few trying to stop them from discovering it.

The setting is harsh, in a post apocolyptic, dystopian world (possibly the United States) where the silo protects its inhabitants from the hostile toxic world outside. The society inside the silo is tightly controlled with manual labourers living and working in the lower floors and professionals living on the upper ones. The power lies in IT who control all those around them. The story starts with a cleaning. The silo’s sheriff Holston, volunteers to clean the silo’s cameras on the outside of the silo and resign himself to a horrible death in the toxic atmosphere outside. He is following in the footsteps of his wife three years before who started to uncover secrets and made the fatal decision to be let out. Holston refuses to believe his wife is dead and its not until he is outside the silo using wool pads to clean the cameras  that he realises how wrong  he has been.

The cleaning leads to a catastrophic chain of events with series of suspicious deaths including the Mayor and the deputy Sheriff. Discord reigns up and down the silo especially after the appointment of Jules as the new sheriff. The Mayor elect and head of IT, Bernard is not happy by Jules’ appointment and he is determined to have a scape goat to quell the masses. The entire plot revolves around what happens when Jules is charged with treason and sentenced to cleaning. To say anymore about what happens next would ruin the story and burn the suspense. Even with spoiler alerts it always bothered me when reviewers give away the entire plot in their review and the suspense and tension in this story is the best part.

So what happens next? Well I won’t tell but the reader discovers who is behind all the deaths by the end of the book and an explanation as to why IT are in power and why Bernard is so ruthless. There is also a few teasers as to how the inhabitants came to live in the silo but I am assuming more will follow in subsequent books. After the first few chapters the plot focuses solely on Jules and those she is closest to. Howey makes her the lynchpin to the plot and she is the delivery mechanism, whether directly or indirectly, for everything that happens in the latter part of the book. The story then splits into three sub-plots – what is happening in IT to both Bernard and Lukas who has fallen in love with Jules, the mechanics and suppliers on the lower levels of the silo and Jules. Each of these smaller plots work towards the final culmination and give the reader background about the silo, how it works, how it is divided into classes and the quest by a few of its inhabitants to find out why they ended up there in the first place.

Howey, is a strong storyteller and masterfully blends action with political intrigue to keep the pace and tension high throughout. I was surprised to learn that Wool started out as a short stories as I am not usually a fan of shorts. I was concerned that it was going to be a mishmash of different stories and I would be left feeling dissatisfied as I often am with short stories. It was clear to me from the outset that Howey is a talented writer as he was able to bring these stories  together to deliver a cohesive, tension filled, suspense ridden tale of a fight to find the truth. I think I had a stomach ache from tenseness for the last half of the novel and was on the edge of my seat in the final pages.

I did feel however, that there were too many deaths early on that would have created more dissent within the silo. Within the first few chapters three of the more prominent figures in the silo had died suspiciously or had been murdered and this facilitated Bernard taking power a bit too easily. I also thought that while Bernard was evil he was a product of years of indoctrination and while not an excuse did explain why he did the things that he did. What I am curious to find out is if Howey explains how IT managed to keep the origins of the silo secret for so long and so fervently guarded the ‘real story’. This is just really nit picking however, as Wool really is a powerful and engaging book and I couldn’t put it down.


Wool is an intense read and I loved every minute of it. Howey is a master at keeping the tension high and drip feeding the reader the back story so that the ending smacks them in the face. Characters that you love and love to hate, revelations and revolution, Wool has something for everyone. This is a definite must read.


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  1. Wool Omnibus (Wool 1-5)
  2. Shift (Prequel – 2013)



A displaced Canadian living in the UK who when not reading is often found trawling through GoodReads looking for something to read or buying another book on Amazon. [Melanie no longer reviews for the site.]


Carolyn February 5, 2013 at 3:34 pm

This sounds awesome, almost wish I’d kept it for myself 😉 Glad you enjoyed it!


Becs February 14, 2013 at 11:41 pm

I want to read this, it sounds fantastic.

Great Review x


Melanie February 15, 2013 at 7:07 am

Read it!!!!! It is fantastic


Becs February 19, 2013 at 10:03 am

I saw they are turning it into a film! It’s a must read now. It’s on my wishlist x


Melanie February 19, 2013 at 10:08 am

SQUEAL!!! Excited.


Dazzling Mage February 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Wow, this sounds like a complex dystopian! I know a colleague of mine is reading it and recommended it to me.


Melanie February 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm

It isn’t when you are reading it…explaining it in a review makes it sound more complicated than it really is.

Get it on your TBR!


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