William's home for discarded gems and concepts-in-progress.

Welcome to William Van Winkle's blog, home for everything from notes on his latest ebooks to leftovers from his articles in CPU, Tom's Hardware, Smart Computing, and other media outlets. Check out his author pages at Amazon and Smashwords!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sci-Guys Short Shorts Review: Hugh Howey's Wool

It's that time again! If you're interested in some lively, crass, and hilarious discussion about this summer's upcoming movies, give Sci-Guys Podcast #96 a listen. Of course, if you want to skip straight to my quick Short Shorts review of Hugh Howey's awesome sci-fi story, Wool, then please either fast forward to 45:20 in the podcast or, well...here it is:

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We all love post-apocalypse stories with nuclear monsters, roving zombies, or packs of rabid marauders out to pillage and destroy. Wool, by Hugh Howey, is not one of those stories. In this post-apocalypse, the world, as visible through four surface cameras, seems to be a seething, gray, toxic nothing. What’s left of humanity lives in underground missile silos, and these cameras are the only views onto that world. But the cameras grow filmy and obscured over time. The few who are banned from the silo are tasked with cleaning the cameras with wool before they wander off to die...maybe.

This is the story of the silo’s sheriff, Holston, who still mourns for his wife. She discovered secrets about the silo’s past that had to be investigated, even if it meant her death on the outside. Now, Holston has to see if she was right about the outside, because he can no longer stand to be on the inside.

We all enjoy getting lost in worlds of fiction. Look at The Lord of the Rings. That’s an amazing, fascinating world, right? But in terms of character development, Middle Earth may not be a zero, but it’s really close. The genius of Hugh Howey is that he builds the world of Wool through character. In science fiction, it’s easy to get caught up in the big concepts, the sweeping time scales. But without character, without real people who reflect you, every world is flat.

Hugh Howey is my hero. He’s just an ordinary guy who started self-publishing the stories he felt compelled to write. The story he had the least faith in and practically ignored was the one that caught fire with the public, spawned a series, and is now courting offers from the BBC and movie studios. And this guy is so down to earth and cool in a really quiet, caring way. I defy you not to love Hugh Howey.

Start with Wool 1 and see for yourself. Like every Wool installment, it’s 99 cents. [Edit: The first three are 99 cents. They edge upward after that as novella lengths increase.] If you’re really cheap or don’t believe me, all of Wool 1 is contained in the free sample of the five-part Wool Omnibus. Read it. You’ll be addicted.

I am William Van Winkle, and thanks for checking out my short shorts.


  1. Thanks for the wonderful review. I love this series too and I'm thrilled to seeing Mr. Howey's work applauded.

  2. WOOL is everything William said it is and more. You wont be able to put it down and it will stay with you long after you do. PEOPLE - READ THIS! You'll be glad you did!

  3. Wool is definitely a character focused story, and is one of my favorites because of it. LOTR is what Orson Scott Card calls a milieu story, which is more about exploring the world than having deep, changing characters. Hugh did a fine job focusing the story on the characters even though his exploration of the world through them was excellent. You're right on, Will. I've subscribed to your podcast, so I look forward to listening to it later.