Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Science Fiction Annotation


by Hugh Howey

Simon & Schuster (2013)
ISBN: 978-1476733951
Available formats:  Hardcover, Paperback


In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.  (Amazon, 2017)

Characteristics of Sci Fi in this Book

Story:  Wool is highly speculative.  The characters have been placed in an untenable situation, living deep underground in a highly controlled society which is increasingly suspected to be based on false assumptions and manipulation.

Pacing:  Novelist calls this fast-paced, but I disagree.  The characters are deeply introspective and their internal struggle to understand their world and how it came to be what it is slows the pace to a more moderate level.  It moves along enough to keep readers hooked, but not as fast as regular thrillers or adventures.

Setting:  The story is set hundreds of years in the future, in a post-apocalyptic world where humans are striving to survive in underground silos.  It’s very detailed and technical, explaining how the communications and manipulations have been able to occur and how the technology is ultimately used in exposing the truth.  The world-building is very realistic.

Tone:  The tone of this book is rather dark and very compelling.  It’s almost oppressive as we read about all the ways in which the protagonists are struggling.  It has a very gray, cold feel, but with a ray of humanity and hope.

Style:  The writing is very descriptive and strong.  Jonathan Hayes (author of A Hard Death) describes it as “muscular”. 

Characterization:  Sheriff Holston and Juliette each face a very real moral crisis.  The central “character” in the story is the challenge of an underground society and the ethical issues of centralized management and thought control.

Appeal terms:  compelling, intense, adventurous, suspenseful, realistic, moderately paced

Personal Note

My husband is a huge sci fi fan and he discovered Wool very shortly after its initial publication as an omnibus edition.  He insisted that I read it, and we were both hooked.  We read the entire series, which, kind of like Ender’s Game, became more and more existential as the series progressed.  Some of the characters are completely unlikable, and that makes it even more realistic.  I’ve seen a number of book trailers, posters, and art work by some of the numerous fans of this fabulous book, and I can’t wait for the movie to be made! 


Movie rights were purchased by 20th Century Fox and an adaptation is in the works with Ridley Scott (Alien) producing.

The book was originally self-published in separate short stories/novellas as Kindle shorts; popularity spurred its development into an omnibus collection of the first 5 original shorts into a novel which, in turn, became the first in the Silo series.  It then got picked up by a major publishing house (Random House UK) and was recently re-released by Simon and Schuster.  

Official Book Trailer



  1. Hi Deirdre,

    Ok, so what is outside the silo? I want to know…. wait don’t tell me; I don’t want any spoilers. Your Synopsis is very well written. It has peaked my interest into finding out more about the story and the people.

    In your Personal Note section, you stated: “Some of the characters are completely unlikable, and that makes it even more realistic.” I agree with you. The villains, the annoying characters, and insufferable jerks in a story is necessary in order to balance out the good versus evil aspects. It also helps shine a more positive light on the hero and the good people of a story.

    Thanks for your review.


  2. Thanks Rob. I grew up with Ray Bradbury, which I see you reviewed. If you like sci fi at all, you'll love Wool. Be prepared for an in-depth trilogy that plumbs the depths of the human psyche even as it plumbs the depths of the earth. If you like world-building, when you're done with this one, try the Eye of the World series by Robert Jordan - absolutely brilliant. If you lean more toward the psychological and metaphysical, you'd better go for all the Ender books by Orson Scott Card. Trust me, these are as "out there" as they come with strange Fahrenheit 451 moments interspersed with brilliant insights. The piggies.... :)

  3. This is another book that I have been meaning to read but haven't gotten around to it. I actually didn't know what it was about but now that I do, I'm really intrigued.
    I agree with you and Rob. Sometimes the characters that I like the least become my favorite characters. In fact, one of my favorite books, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, has a main character that I cannot stand but I grow to love her because of her imperfections.

  4. Deidre, this book sounds great. I really like the appeal terms that you use. It really has peaked my interest along with your synopsis. I think that sometimes you just love to hate certain characters.

  5. Like Melissa, I have been meaning to read this book also! An old co-worker was reading it for her book club and said she could not finish because it was too intense! Another coworker said it was her favorite book she has read in a long time. Any book that can garner both of these reactions is likely to go on my to-read shelf! :)

    1. Yes, it IS intense. The cover on the older version is not very appealing. At my local high school, the librarian said none of the kids had checked it out, so I went and booktalked it at their school book club and that got it moving. You know the old saying, "Never judge a book by its cover...", lol. It's kind of interesting, too, because the title is so enigmatic. My husband and I argued about what it meant and it turned out we were both right: it refers to the wool pads used for the cleanings, and it also refers to having the wool pulled over your eyes. Really tremendous work, but be ready to get sucked in to some pretty deep questions. :)

  6. Hi Deidre.

    Ack! I remember shelving this book one day a couple of years ago and thinking that it looked interesting. I actually opened the book and skimmed the first chapter, enjoyed it, and made a mental note to check the book out later. And I forgot all about it!

    Thanks for posting it. It's a great reminder. And I appreciated your characteristics of the book - especially when you explained why you disagreed with Novelist's choice.

  7. I loved Ender's Game, but I have never heard of this. I can't wait to check it out! I really like that you included the info about it being made into a movie, I always try to read the book before seeing the movie. Plus is a great marketing tool!

    1. Did you read all the sequels to Ender's Game? They're mind-boggling!

  8. Fantastic annotation! I loved that you included a book trailer as well. Your appeals are spot on and its very well written. In the future though, I would like summaries to be written by you. Full points!