I recently finished Hugh Howey’s Wool, which I had picked up while I was on vacation in Iceland and ran out of things to read. A friend of mine told me about the book awhile ago, and I had been wanting to read it because it was a self-published novel turned bestseller, which as a writer is always interesting to hear about. Of course, I’m bad at making time to actually read books (odd for a writer, I know), so it took me some time to actually get around to it. But hey, I’m done (with the first volume)!
So, I have to say, I can see in a way why this book was initially published on Amazon. Basically the structure is that of novellas that link together to form a greater story. At least this is the case for the first three out of the five sections. Sections three to five adhere more closely to a standard continuous novel structure with chapters from the POV of two protagonists and then some other perspectives sprinkled in to add to the story.
On the one hand, I really like this structure since it provides a fuller view of the world, and in the case of this story you get a strong background leading up to the primary tale. The downside of this is that the story doesn’t start in earnest until the third section of the book.
The first two sections show the stories of two characters, and the ending of each of their stories leads into the next section. This is, as I’ve said, an interesting and different way to tell a story, which I think certainly works. However, by the time I got to the third section, I was ready for that bit to end and for the story to just be passed along to another character.
Perhaps Howey sensed that this might be the case among people reading the story, because it is in the third section that we finally happen on a character who gets a continuing story and perspective. In my mind this is where the story really takes off. Up to now we’ve gotten a couple great snippets about what life in “The Silo” is like. We’ve also gotten a story that is evolving but slowly and over the course of multiple characters. I think that’s an awesome approach to telling a story, but I found the continuous narrative to be more engaging when it finally began.
So should he have just started with the third section and gone from there? I actually don’t think so. Even though the story took off more at the end of the third section, the build up to that point was, in my opinion, very important. By the time that section starts Howey has created an expectation about how things are going to play out, and when they turn out differently, it’s an awesome surprise and the action really jump-starts from there.
Ultimately I think that Howey proved that this “linked novella” style of writing can be successful and can be a great way to construct a narrative. I gave the novel 4 Stars on Goodreads, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a book to read, especially if you’re a fine of apocalyptic sci-fi stories.
In closing, I’d like to apologize for being vague in some of my descriptions here of the different sections. I didn’t want to give any spoilers, but I hope it wasn’t too vague as to be unhelpful.