The outside world is nothing but bare hills, ruined buildings and endless swirling eddies of brown dust. Inside the Silo survivors of some great catastrophe live and work knowing very little of the world that once was. Expressing too much curiousity about the outside world is considered treason, for which the penalty is to be sent to Cleaning, ie. cleaning the sensors on the outside of the Silo, where the toxic air will inevitably kill you.
Sheriff Holsten is a good man, doing his best to maintain order. He wants to understand why his wife broke the ultimate taboo of the Silo, expressing the desire to go outside, which led to her death. Jahns and Deputy Marnes make the long journey to the lower levels and come into conflict with Bernard, the head of IT. Juliette, the engineer, prepares to take on a challenging new job in the upper levels and must fight the bureaucrats of IT. while still haunted by a lost secret love. Mayor Meanwhile IT Officer Lukas spends his nights staring at the sky, trying to map the stars he glimpses between the clouds of dust. All these characters come to life in Hugh Howey's skillful prose. You really care about these people, but hardly dare to hope they will succeed with the odds so stacked against them.
Wool was originally published as five separate short stories which have been turned into a novel. This gives it an interesting structure, since there is not one hero to follow all through the novel. Instead the story is passed from person to person in a way that reminds me a little of Douglas Coupland's Hey Nostradamus!. It also makes the title make a little more sense. The five stories are called Wool, Proper Gauge, Casting Off, The Unravelling and The Stranded. Wool is used as a metaphor throughout the novel. The pads used to clean the sensors outside the Silo are made of wool, and perhaps represent many of the characters trying deperately to clear away the confusion and lies that surround them and uncover the truth behind the Silo.
Wool was billed as "the next Hunger Games", but two years after publication it doesn't seem to have garnered the recognition it deserves. It is a beautifully written book about the endurance of humanity.
If you enjoy Wool there are two more books in the Silo series: Shift and Dust.