“Wool”

At the book club I attend, we always go around the table and tell what other books we’ve been reading. I usually write down these recommendations and check them out later. One such recommendation was “Wool” by Hugh Howey. I checked it out on Amazon and thought, “What the heck?” I ordered it for my Kindle and I was hooked.

The premise: People on Earth have had to build underground silos in which to live because the air on the surface is toxic. Generations have gone by, and now when someone is convicted of a crime, they’re sent to cleaning. That means they’re suited up to go outside to clean the camera lenses on the sensors on the top of the silo.

No one survives cleaning, and that’s the whole idea. The rest of the folks inside the silo get a clearer picture of what’s happening outside, and they get rid of a troublemaker. Other deaths are treated more kindly: your remains become the mulch in the hydroponic gardens. The circle of life!

When one young woman actually survives cleaning and sets out over the next hill, it provokes an uprising in the silo. There are many uprisings — they become legend and lore in this culture. (She finds another silo where another uprising has killed off everyone. She has to crawl over the bodies to get inside to find oxygen.)

That’s what I love about this series — it moves quickly and every chapter brings another revelation, another turn. No one in the original silo knows that there are other silos except the very limited top echelon of leaders. One of the silo’s leaders decides to take a young man as his shadow/apprentice to learn about the history of the silos because he’s not sure who will survive the uprising.

Those who created the silos apparently knew such things were possible — they have a process manual on what to do in case of earthquake, power outage, and cleaning failure. The young woman who survives does so because her friends have replaced her hazmat suit with one that isn’t designed to fail. How’s that for planned obsolescence?

Thankfully, the young man who has a new mentor is one of the young woman’s friends. Will he survive the uprising and make it to the next silo over the next hill? I know it won’t take long for me to find out. That’s the beauty of this story: it moves quickly and doesn’t waste one’s patience on finding out the next answer.

It also doesn’t insult your intelligence by explaining every single nuance in the story. Of course they have gardens on certain levels. Of course they recycle their water and waste, and of course they have limited access to things such as wood and paper. They don’t have trees, so that makes wooden objects immediate antiques.

And yes, of course, people are going to get wise to one group knowing more than another group. And of course, that’s going to lead to strife and uprisings.

What I wonder is how the Earth’s atmosphere became toxic. Why does everyone assume there’s going to be an apocalypse? Will I see it in my lifetime?