The hallmarks of Wool are the well-developed world, good development of multi-dimensional characters, good dialog and, especially its surprises. Read the Omnibus edition; these reflections are based on that edition. Wool really is one book in serial format.
The plot twists are not artificial or cheap. They make sense and are organically developed (and explained) within the story. Mr. Howey doesn’t need to rely on awkward monologues to provide backstory exposition; he unveils them through the narrative. The pacing is solid, the dystopian future somewhat depressing but fully-fleshed out and without artifice. Characters, their dialog and their interactions are all nicely done. Wool shows our depravity and our desire to matter, to be part of a purpose beyond ourselves. In other words, like all of the best Science Fiction, it provides a mirror for us with a new perspective.
****Note, some high-level story information provided – very light spoilers****
Mr. Huey introduces us to the Silo; essentially, this single silo is the whole world available to our cast of characters. There is no life outside the silo; indeed the ultimate punishment is to be exiled to the post-apocalyptic outer world that is utterly poisonous. The twist here is that while you carry out your death sentence of exile, they want you to clean the” windows” (the camera lenses) that provide the only view of the outside world to the inhabitants. Cheeky. Yet, everyone who has received this death sentence blithely goes through the process of cleaning the lenses with wool pads. Go figure.
This is the backdrop to a well-ordered society made up of a literal caste system where the lower castes are the bottom dwellers whilst the upper crust lives near the surface. You are intimately identified with your caste although it is possible to move among them. Everything, including families, are regulated to ensure continued survival in a decaying silo; having babies is by lottery because everything is a zero sum game.
The characters are well-developed and, while you are pigeon holed by your caste (job), the characters we meet are complicated. The world is complicated and twists and turns change your entire vista. The guys on “the bad side” can be good; the good guys can make unwise choices. The wicked have developed their wickedness through choices over time; vestigial goodness remains either in desire or in the story they’ve woven to justify their actions. This is not a morality play, but the consequences of our choices on our own character as well as on those around us is writ large on the silo’s stage.
I alternated between the Kindle and Audible versions (despite the fact that Whispersynch for Voice isn’t yet working on Windows Phone 8 still looking @ you Audible development team). Minnie Goode does a masterful job narrating the story. The combination of her smooth voice, brilliant pacing and inflection and ability to convey the emotion mark her as one of the better narrators. I definitely recommend her version over Amanda Sayle’s, at least based on the sample on Audible Right now, it appears that it’s not on Audible right now. That’s unfortunate.
I highly commend Wool to you. While the actual craft of writing is good, I anticipate that his descriptions and dialog will only get tighter. Wool is a brilliantly conceived world, characters, set of problems and story. Well done Mr. Howey.