In this world of self-published fiction, I am always on the lookout for something self-published that holds my interest and manages to impress me with technical and storytelling skill. Sadly, these are rare finds. Wool is one of them. Granted, because I could download the novella onto my Kindle for free, I was leery to peek inside. Even reader praise didn’t make me overly hopeful about what I would find. Finally, I gave it a shot. I marked up the first page, still skeptical, but after that, I was sold.
Thousands of people live underground, escaping the effects of an unnamed cataclysm. They are governed by strict rules and silence about the past. Some people lose their minds in such an environment. They start asking uncomfortable questions and making dangerous demands. They are given what they ask for. They are tossed outside forever and given one simple task: clean the projector lenses.
Gems For Writers:
Setting. The setting is so vital to Wool that the silo in which the story unfolds becomes another character in its own right. You get to know the silo intimately, and in very words. The story opens with a description of the spiral staircase that coils down the center of the silo "like a straw in a glass." Howey goes into minute detail of these worn metal steps, which at first I thought was going to be a detrimental opening. Yawn, right? But with well-chosen words, Howey is able to convey valuable information about the plot before we even know what's going on, as well as establish emotion and ambiance through the description of that staircase. You climb it with Holston, our main character, and before you know it, you feel as old and tired as he does.
This skillful description continues right up to the top of the silo, where we enter the crowded cafeteria. There are no windows in this silo, only projections of the outside world. These grimy Lady of Shalott-esque reflections of the landscape are unable to relieve the claustrophobic feel of this setting, and they provide the hinges on which the whole story turns.
Twist endings. I can't elaborate much on this gem without spoiling the fun for readers, but the twists at the end of Wool were expertly executed. The trick to a good twist is not to spring something unexpected on a reader, a bolt from the blue, as it were, but to build up to it, providing subtle information that leads to it in a believable way. There's little more disappointing at the end of a good tale than a false surprise. This is not a problem in Howey’s tale. There was not only one twist at the end of Wool but two. I had the first figured out, given the clues along the way, which was satisfying. But when I realized that a second twist was about to follow the first, my heart broke for the characters, which was equally satisfying.
Wool was a pleasant surprise. In only 15,000 words, Howey provides readers with a memorable experience. Because of Wool’s massive popularity, Howey received the call that so many self-published writers dream about. Nelson Literary Agency now represents the series and has sold it to Simon & Schuster. And is that a rumor that the movie rights have been acquired by 20th Century Fox? I do believe so.