Wool

So I told you in my last blog that I was in the mood for sci-fi this summer…so here’s a little more! If you’re looking for some more mysterious post-apocalyptic fiction, something that’s a little different to the new Young-Adult-Dystopian-coming-of-age fashion, then I want to see what you think of Wool. I had intended to wait to review this until I had finished the Silo series, but since the second and third instalments haven’t turned up in the same charity shop where I found this one, I decided to stop waiting and just review the darned thing.

wool-uk-cover-final Synopsis

Set in some unknown future, the events of Wool take place in a Silo housing many, many people. We begin with the Sheriff as he makes his way up all the stairs in the Silo, contemplating the death of his wife and the birth lottery that occurs in the Silo to control population increase, to his office, where he declares to his deputy that he wants to go outside. 

In the Silo to say that you want to go outside is a death sentence and results in you getting exactly what you ask for. Something in the air outside kills all those who go out to ‘clean’.

What follows is a search for the new sheriff, and the controversial decision to appoint the mechanic Juliette to the post is what propels the plot for the rest of the novel. It is a story of political intrigue, murder, mystery and revelation. Not necessarily what I expected going in.

Things I liked

  • Juliette as a character is fantastic. She is neither perfect nor deliberately flawed. She isn’t a young girl struggling to find herself, she is a woman who has loved and lost, who has grown and worked hard and lived her life through all its difficulties. The way she talks and thinks is very personal. It’s obvious that Hugh Howey knows his characters well.
  • The relationships between the characters, sometimes unexpected or unconventional.
  • The clean and unassuming style. The narrative is not imposing – in third person and fully utilising the ability to leap between the minds of characters, Howey’s style and choices of character perspectives are fresh and perfectly controlled.
  • The pacing. This is a bit of a weird one. Maybe if I wasn’t on holiday it might have seemed like a slow read, maybe not. As it was, I spent most of my time when reading this either on the beach or the sofa, and the novel walked along at exactly the right speed. While I did say that it was a story of political intrigue and murder, this is not a thriller novel, and therefore don’t expect it to race along page after page, cliffhanger by cliffhanger. It’s not like that. The pacing of this story is under constant control, giving you just enough information for you to get by and make your own guesses, but not enough for you to figure out where we’re heading. As a writer who struggles with pacing at the best of times, it was wonderful to see an example of great, steady, pacing.
  • It passes the Bechdel Test. Yay!

Things I didn’t like

  • Having said such nice things about pacing, it was perhaps a little bit long. However, I can say with some certainty that the only reason I feel that way is because I brought two other books on my holiday to read after this one, and didn’t start either because a) I took too long reading this one but more importantly b) because all I wanted to read when I was done was more of the same.
  • I have to wait until I have money to read the second one… but I guess that’s not Hugh Howey’s fault…

Should I read this?

Yes, go for it. I’ve been in a couple of bookshops and overhead people asking for this, or the next instalment, but not nearly enough people know about this brilliantly constructed series. Besides, any book with the tagline ‘If the lies don’t kill you, the truth will‘ deserves your time. Right? Get on it, spiders! (Yes, anyone who reads this blog is now a spider)

Note: I read this in June, so there are some things I’ve forgotten. In trying to remind myself, I discovered that Wool is actually a collection of five short books released over several months in 2011, that it’s going to be made into a comic book, and the film rights have been bought by 20th century fox with director Ridley Scott expressing interest. So you guys had better get reading!

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The Book Depository

You can buy the book here.

Because I am trying not to use Amazon in my own half-arsed protest-y way, I’d like to recommend to people that they check out The Book Depository, which is a great, user-friendly site with affordable books ranging from brand new releases to classics, and in many different editions at less-than brand new prices. As I am now officially an affiliate of The Book Depository, I gain a small commission if you use my affiliate link to buy books! Please do check it out, even if you don’t buy anything right now.

http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=SpidersLibrary

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Ready Player One

In the mood for some sci-fi? I have been this summer. This was recommended by various booktubers who have been right about things I’d like in the past. Ready Player One was no exception.

ready player one Synopsis

This is the debut novel from American author Ernest Cline. In the not too distant future, the Internet has been combined with simulation gaming to be the ultimate interactive experience – not just used for shopping, games, and social networking, but now you can even attend schools online. It’s called the OASIS, and the novel opens with the death of its creator, James Halliday, and the consequences of his death. As he started out as simply a game designer, he leaves behind an Easter Egg in the OASIS, accessed by finding three keys that open three gates. It’s a contest for the whole world. The prize: his entire fortune.

Our narrator, Wade Watts, is a poor, fat, orphaned teenager, who unhappily lives with his aunt and attends school in the OASIS. He has dedicated his life to hunting the Easter Egg, studying the creator’s life, his obsessions, his hobbies, for clues to the keys. At the end of chapter one we find out why Wade is telling us this story: because he’s the player who found the first key.

Things I liked

As a sci-fi novel that is heavily centred in a simulated, computer-generated environment, this is a completely approachable world to step into. It’s not overly-laden with alienating jargon, and what there is, is either explained or specific to the book – my favourite is ‘gunters’, the name given to the egg hunters.

The handling of the online identities vs the real people. Wade’s avatar, Parzival, his best friend, Aech, the lead female gunter, Art3mis, most clearly represent the diverse ways in which people represent themselves online. Another nice touch by Cline was that Wade was still limited in his online avatar, by having no money in real life. Once the Internet becomes an interactive, immersive, universal experience, it is governed by many of the same social restrictions as the outside world.

Likewise, the relationship between the gunters and the ‘sixers’ – members of an enormous corporation dedicated to finding the egg. The gunters work alone or join forces, going up against the sixers in the race to find the egg. If the sixers find it, they intend to stop the OASIS being free to join. Disaster for people like Wade whose lives revolve around the OASIS but have no money to spare.

The light-hearted tone compared with the very real danger Wade finds himself in.

The 80s references. Dear God, the 80s references. So many. I’m sure I only got about half of them, but someone who grew up in the 80s or loves things from that era (and I mean, any things: films, games, music) would have so much fun with this book. Because Halliday grew up in the 80s, many of the tasks are related to the games he played growing up, his favourite films and comic books. 

***Just been clued up on some slang slightly before my time. Halliday’s avatar, who still lives in the OASIS, is an archmage called Anorak. Anorak is apparently a name for a nerd/geek. Apologies to anyone who knew this already, obviously I’m just a noob, but it adds a nice layer to the jovial self-deprecation of the quest and the gunters.

Things I didn’t like

Occasionally felt like the odds were too stacked against the protagonists for any kind of happy ending. But not sure that can be a bad thing.

To be honest it was several weeks ago that I read it… I can only say that while I read it I was recommending it to people, and once I finished I bought it as a gift for my sci-fi coach, Motorbike Man, who tells me he enjoyed it. 

Should I read this?

Why not? If you’re looking for some approachable but immersive sci-fi, a novel that is not too long, not too short, with a compelling story and relatable but futuristic universe, then go for it. It’s the guy’s debut, too. I reckon we can expect some great things from Ernest Cline.

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The Book Depository

You can buy the book here.

Because I am trying not to use Amazon in my own half-arsed protest-y way, I’d like to recommend to people that they check out The Book Depository, which is a great, user-friendly site with affordable books ranging from brand new releases to classics, and in many different editions at less-than brand new prices. As I am now officially an affiliate of The Book Depository, I gain a small commission if you use my affiliate link to buy books! Please do check it out, even if you don’t buy anything right now.

http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=SpidersLibrary