Forget Wool. This should have been called Forge.
Writing that’s a power-punch to the gut. Direct, slow build of heat, singeing as it suddenly roars into flame. A world that feels solid, heavy, hard-edged; soldered with characters that are heated and molded into something new. This isn’t knitting a scarf so much as forging a steel chain.
Populated by multi-dimensional characters that feel real, I absolutely love the character of Juliette–determined, essentially elemental, a person that rocks my character world. Juliette comes from a mechanical background, and I love how all her metaphors are mechanical ones, problems and solutions both. Even though I’m completely tool-impaired, her thinking translated well, a clear schematic of sense. “But as Bernard’s footsteps receded… she felt a new resolve steel her nerves. It was like encountering a rusted bolt that refused to budge. Something about that intolerable stiffness, that reluctance to move, set Juliette’s teeth on edge. She had come to believe that there was no fastener she culdn’t unstick, had learned to attack them with grease and with fire, with penetrating oil and with brute strength” (p. 132).
But as organized and mechanistic as Juliette is in her world, by no means is she limited in her range of emotion: “She had made the same choices as an adult, to love without sanction, and so her hypocrisy was more keenly felt” (p.137)
Howey has a gift for understated prose, and the writing was one of pleasures of the book. With clear, straightforward language he captures subtlety of emotion and action. The funeral scene just about made me weep:
“But then, the lowering of the body and the plucking of ripe fruit just above the graves was meant to hammer this home: The cycle of life is here. It is inescapable. It is to be embraced, cherished, appreciated. One departs and leaves behind the gift of sustenance, of life… We are born, we are shadows, we cast shadows of our own, and then we are gone. All anyone can hope for is to be remembered two shadows deep” (p.158)
I absolutely loved all the little connections linking the sections, together. I was particularly fond of the shadow imagery and the chain imagery. A moment in the uprising solidly hit the connection:
“It startled Knox, this sudden link to a mysterious past. And it wasn’t that terribly long ago, was it? Less than two hundred years? He imagined, if someone lived as long as Jahns had, or McLain for that matter, that three long lives could span that distance. Three handshakes to go from that uprising to this one” (p.321)
One of my only complaints is
how easily everyone in the rebellion made the adjustment to the mental gymnastics of having been manipulated, and their innovation–the guns and bombs, in particular, seemed odd in a culture that seemed to be lacking them (two sheriffs per 30 plus floors, but everyone can get a hold of a gun with minimal notice?). And people isolated in the silo being so ready to believe in Juliette’s discovery. I also had to wonder at the lack of agorophobia in going outside. But I was willing enough to believe and it soon smoothed over.
I found Wool sophisticated in its ethics and philosophy. Although I expected something unusual, given the bookworld buzz, I was still astounded at what I found. While it is not a cheery, comforting novel I would read again and again (that’s what Kate Daniels is for), it’s thoughtful, powerful and well worth a second read.
Thoughts on the Omnibus:
Wool: Stunning in its character development. Introduces the psychology of the people in the intimate space through the story of the sheriff and his dead wife. Romantic, tragic, doomed; truly a hint of Romeo and Juliet.
Wool Two, Proper Gauge: Compelling mix of character and plotting. Mayor and Deputy find renewal during the search for a sheriff. Using the climb gives a terrific tour of the physics and politics of the silo without infodump.
Wool Three, Casting Off: Juliette takes center stage, struggling in isolation in her new job. Powerful discoveries mean the pattern starts to come together.
Wool Four, The Unraveling: The overarching structure clarifies, like being able to see a map zooming out. Delicious ending line of kickassitude.
Wool Five, The Stranded: Action packed tension. Delicately balanced characterization means no villains here. And I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will never go cave/wreck diving.
Five dust-smudged and elusive stars.