Wool Summary

Hugh Howey


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Wool Summary

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Hugh Howey’s post-apocalyptic novel Wool focuses on a society that is forced to live underground. It began as a short story published on the Internet in 2011. It was spread widely by dystopian fiction fans, leading Howey to continue the series, which eventually found its way into mainstream publishing after selling e-books numbering into the hundreds of thousands.

Juliette Nelson is a mechanic in the post-apocalyptic underground world where she discovers a murderous web of deceit. She has survived largely because of her ability to consider her situations in a logical, mechanical way. She finds a silo deep in the earth that is similar to her own. Aided by Solo, who appears to be the only resident of the silo, she conceives a plan designed to save the man with whom she is in love and to rescue her people from an oppressive leader. In the world of the novel, a “cleaning” is a punishment for anyone who commits a crime against the silo. Through research, Juliet has come to believe that the outside world is not as bad as leaders of the silo have painted it to be. Anyone sent outside fears death because of toxins in the air. Being punished includes being sent out to clean the lenses of the cameras that are used to send images of the outside world to higher levels of the silo. These images represent the only connection to the outside world. Later in the book, it is discovered that the cleaners have been getting a false scene of the outside world.

The head of IT, Bernard, has hopes of taking charge of the entire silo. Mayor Jahns gets in the way of Bernard’s plans when he appoints Juliette sheriff over Peter Billings who was Bernard’s choice. This leads Bernard to arrange for the killing of the mayor. He attempts to get rid of Juliette by sending her back to work in mechanical and then for cleaning. Juliette, fortunately, has a friend in mechanical; the friend sees to it that her cleaning suit is made of better materials than what is usually used and will not break as the others are designed to do. She then is able to see that false images are being presented and is not influenced by them.

In exploring the surroundings, Juliette finds that there are other silos in the area. She manages to get into one of them where she meets the man who survived the fighting that had taken place in the silo. From him, she learns how it is possible to communicate with other silos, and she begins an interaction with Lukas, a man she had once known who had been sent out for a cleaning. Lukas, it turns out, is being trained as a backup for Bernard. Juliette looks for a way to return to the silo to seek revenge against Bernard.

The people connected to the supply and mechanical areas have started a revolt against Bernard and IT. Lukas is hidden in the secret compartments of IT to keep him safe. Bernard, growing more dissatisfied with Lukas, arranges for him to be sent out to cleaning. Billings is leading Lukas to be sent out as Juliette makes contact with Bernard via the radio system of the silo. She gets into an argument with Bernard as Billings listens in. Juliette believes that Lukas is about to be killed and makes an effort to save him. It turns out that Bernard, and not Lukas, was the one who was in the chamber. Billings, from hearing Juliette and Bernard arguing with each other, determines that Bernard is the one who has committed crimes against the silo. Juliette is then asked to be mayor of the silo. Her first act is to call for a new beginning and to establish a state where, rather than being manipulated, the people are given truth and empowerment.

The Washington Post praised Howey for his well-drawn main character and for the work as a whole. “Into this world comes a reluctant hero. Her name is Juliette, and the tale revolves around her quest to embody the hope of the underclass. She is a mechanic, a fixer of machines. She is very plucky and inventive, but Howey imbues her with enough flaws and self-doubt to make her a well-rounded protagonist who carries the reader along. She is an ideal knight-errant for our times…It’s easy to see how exuberant word of mouth spread so quickly on the Internet for Wool. The characters are well drawn, with a rousing protagonist and antagonist, and the plot races forward without resorting to melodrama. Most of all, the mood is rightly claustrophobic and, at times, genuinely terrifying—particularly with the very real threat of global warming looming. It’s not a perfect novel, and, at times, the method of its construction sticks out like a crooked seam. But “Wool” is the kind of sci-fi novel you can give to those who love the genre and those who never read the stuff.”