Review: Wool by Hugh C. Howey
I’ve been curious about Howey’s work for a while, so I finally decided to read Wool, which is a post-apocalyptic dystopian story and a genre with which I’m not too familiar. In fact, the main reason, in full disclosure, I decided to read Wool is because I’ve read about Howey in a few online articles and I was just plain curious. So he had a lot to live up to because I’d already formed a few preconceived notions (which I hate doing) and I don’t like being disappointed.
As it turned out, I actually liked this book and Howey’s interesting writing style far more than I thought I would. There’s a certain descriptive pattern throughout the story that kept it not only believable for me but also kept me imagining each situation, glum as some of them may be at times. I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between characters, and I felt as if Holston was a strong, but nurturing, character. I now see why there are so many good reviews. I think it’s because the writing style alone resonates with readers and helps pull them into a story with likable characters that could have been bleak and depressing but instead turns out to be more emotional…with depth of emotion. And that’s not easy to describe in a review. Frankly, I still don’t think I nailed it as well as I should have.
I also like the way Howey breaks a few of the “traditional” rules with this story. Coming from a publishing-editing-writer’s background the way I do I often pick up on things most readers might not. In this case, one of the things I spotted first with the writing were the similes. For twenty long years I’ve been told by pedantic editors who drove me crazy I shouldn’t use similes and they never offered a solid reason why I shouldn’t. So I had no choice in the matter. I was under contract; I didn’t use similes and I let the know-it-alls have their way. But after reading Howey’s story and enjoying the way he does use similes in some places (they aren’t everywhere) I now wish I could go back and make a few changes in a few things I’ve had published. In this sense, I think Wool is ground-breaking, without even trying to be that. Writing, as with language, should always be evolving.
Although this isn’t my genre as stated above, I should mention my favorite style of fiction is the short story, with the novella being second. Once again, Howey had a lot to live up to with me this time. As an author who has written (and had published in anthologies and alone) more short stories in the past twenty years than I can even count at this point I know how difficult it is to pull “it” all together, so to speak, with a limited amount of words. But Howey, to my surprise, managed to do this so well I think Wool trumps many of the short stories I’ve read in the past. I also like that he clearly marked all time frames and I didn’t have to wonder where I was…or where the characters were. With stories like this I don’t want to think too hard. I want to be entertained. And I will not apologize to anyone for that.
Another thing about the novel that I loved was the balance between dialogue and narrative. It’s not uncommon nowadays to see entire stories…or novels…written almost completely in dialogue (with horrible dialogue tags) which is always a turn off for me because I know it’s either a short cut or the writer just doesn’t know any better. In most cases it’s the latter. In this case, however, Hugh Howey balances well executed dialogue with descriptive narrative in a way that keeps the pace moving and the reader interested, and even concerned about what’s next.
This is just one small example of what I mean:
Holston dreamed of such things while he scrubbed dutifully on the third lens, wiped, applied, sprayed, then moved to the last. His pulse was audible in his ears; his chest pounded in that constricting suit. Soon, soon, he told himself. He used the second wool pad and polished the grime off the final lens. He wiped and applied and sprayed a final time, then put everything back in its place, back in the numbered pouches, not wanting to bespoil the gorgeous and healthy ground beneath his feet.
Howey, Hugh (2011-07-30). Wool – Part One (pp. 43-44). Broad Reach. Kindle Edition.
From the events following earth’s devastation to the underground silos of human retreat, a social web of creative existence that has become a way of life will take almost any reader to the point of hypnosis within the first few pages. And I don’t use the word creative loosely. I now see why this story has resonated with so many. I also think that for readers just getting into this genre…or even just getting into e-books…this would be an excellent place to start. Even if you find a few things you don’t like, the overall story/concept won’t leave you disappointed.
If anyone has any questions I didn’t cover, e-mail me in private.
Ex-Gay Author: Surrogacy is Like Salve Trading
Speaking of similes, this one’s a real gem.
But it’s the “ex-gay” part of this post that caught my attention at first. Robert Oscar Lopez is an author and a professor at California State University. He says he was once gay and had relationships with men, but after some kind of religious transformation he found women hot, I guess became suddenly attracted to vagina, married a woman, and he’s been with her for 12 years. I don’t know how else to put that other than as bluntly and as ridiculous as it sounds when he says it.
And now, Lopez is speaking out and saying that surrogacy can be compared to slave trading. But more, he’s directed this comparison to gay couples who use surrogates.
‘In both Ohio and the United Kingdom, there has been a push, mostly by gay men, to issue birth certificates that indicate neither the egg donor nor the surrogate mother’s name’ Lopez wrote.
‘This would transform a birth certificate from a document recording where a child came from into a bill of sale and contract for ownership of human chattel … We’ve seen this before – not only in the United States, but going all the way back to Rome.
‘Yes, I know the word “slavery” is incendiary. But we have to take surrogacy seriously, because this could escalate into what we saw between the 1400s and 1800s. Human beings have blind spots. Systems that begin on a small scale have a habit of growing rapidly, turning far more monstrous than people would have predicted, and then becoming world-historical atrocities solvable only by traumas like the American Civil War.
First, I actually do know a little about this topic. Tony and I have niece who actually is a surrogate as I write this post today. And she’s not doing this for a gay couple. She’s doing it for a straight couple. Her only motivation in doing this is to help a couple have a child of their own. It’s an effort of love and emotion. And trust me, the last thing on her mind is slave trading.
This guy needs to go back to men.