Book Review: Wool by Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey is a phenomenon in the self-publishing universe.  He began publishing his fiction as a hobby while working at a full-time job.  His “Wool” series exploded in popularity; Ridley Scott bought the film rights; Howey acquired an agent who helped him get an unprecedented book deal in which he sold the print rights for a six-figure sum to a traditional publisher but kept the electronic rights.  He became an example of what was possible in self-publishing.

Okay, not many self-publishers become as successful as Hugh Howey, though many make a decent living from their efforts.  But there’s more.  Howey has become an advocate for self-published writers, expending considerable time and expense compiling statistics and educating writers on the burgeoning field of self-publishing.  But there’s more.  From all his articles, all his comments, all his remonstrations on behalf of struggling colleagues, Howey comes across as a genuinely nice guy.  A rare commodity indeed these days.  With so many writers, pomposity and egoism seem to come with the turf, but not with Howey.  He seems sincere, concerned, helpful, even self-effacing.

I follow news in the publishing industry fairly closely nowadays, and it would be hard for me not to have heard of Howey.  His articles and comments appear often on the websites I frequent, and I even check out his website from time to time for his latest news or articles.  One reason I hadn’t checked out his fiction until now is that it isn’t available in shops, though it should be.  It seems traditional distributors got all pissed off about the deal Howey got and cut him off from such venues as Barnes and Noble.  Well, okay, let me be honest.  I don’t shop much at Barnes and Noble.  Their prices are too high.  If I go to a physical bookstore, I usually go for used books.  That’s my budget.  But I’ve never come across a Howey book in a used book store.  Maybe once people get them, they are loathe to part with them.  Anyway, it occurred to me to find “Wool” on Amazon.  There it was at a decent discounted price, and I ordered it.  I’m one of those who likes to feel the dead tree in his hands.  When I finally bought a Kindle Fire a year or so ago, one of my sons grabbed it off and I’ve hardly ever seen it since.

Anyway…  On to the story.  It’s a good, solid science fiction post-apocalyptic adventure.  I wouldn’t say the premise is starkly original, but the handling of the tale is unique; Howey has his own distinct style and manner of presenting characters.  Once the story gets going, in the third part, it’s very absorbing and hard to put down.  The first part, the original short story that began it all, is a sort of prelude.  Only the second part I find fault with.  It is interesting and the story is sound, but it has a short story’s worth of material at novella length.  It seems to me that at this point Howey was still getting his bearings, exploring the new world he had created, and by part three he was ready to really throw it in gear and charge ahead.  At least that’s how I see it.  It’s kind of like up to that point you are meandering down a lazy stream, and then at the beginning of part three you suddenly hit the rapids and from that point it never lets up.

“Wool” is a good read and Howey is a good writer and a good man.  I wish him the best, and thank him for the fun tale and the encouragement he offers to his fellow writers.

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