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Wool by Hugh Howey (2011; read in 2015)

Published by marco on

Updated by marco on

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an interest in this book, then I’m happy for you.

Howey originally self-published this work on Amazon but at least the first part suffers much less from a strong editorial hand than other self-published works I’ve seen. He spins a good yarn[1], plucking ideas and moods from other genres to weave[2] his own interesting and thrilling murder mystery in a silo that houses an entire society in its 144 floors.

The stratification becomes clear over the course of the stories, which were published serially over the course of more than year. The various power factions and policies are shown to create a working machine, but one that works for a very distinct and not-very-well-publicized purpose.

The story starts with the death of the Silo’s sheriff, as he is sent out for “cleaning”—as his wife before him—as punishment for heresy/thoughtcrime. Next we meet the Silo’s Mayor, Jahns, an older woman nearing the end of her career, and her deputy Marnes, also in his sunset years. They seek out and find a new sheriff in Juliette, a very clever Mechanic from the lowest levels of the silo. This brings them into direct contact with Bernard, the power-mad head of IT (level 31). Bernard’s “shadow” (apprentice) is Lukas, a young man with fewer scales on his eyes, who is smitten with Juliette and willing to help her find out more about what the Silo is really for, about how it was created. This, despite the trouble this causes him at work, where Bernard is grooming him for succession. Juliette is eventually banished to cleaning as well, but she uses her connections in Mechanical and Supply to ensure that the journey is not as fatal as usual.


“They nodded to the duo as they passed through the cafeteria and wished them a different sort of unspoken luck. Keep us going, their eyes said. Make it so my kids live as long as me. Don’t let it unravel, not just yet.”
Page 43

That’s everyone’s fervent hope.

““That’s a pump,” he said. “Oil well. It’s how you read at night.””
Page 77

How do they even have a word for night anymore?

“Juliette felt inordinate pressure for everything to work. She was the one who had come up with the idea to do a refit. She calmed herself with reassurances that it was the right thing to do and that the worst that could happen now was that the holiday would be extended until they sorted out all the kinks. That was much better than a catastrophic failure years from now.”
Page 110

I know that feeling.

“she continued to make adjustments, zeroing out all the corrections that had built up over the years. They were starting from the ground up, none of the patches and fixes of old to disguise any new symptoms. A fresh start.”
Page 111
“He wondered if McLain saw him as a brute, storming up here with delusions of justice. She was old enough to consider him young, he realized. Young and hot tempered, while he thought of himself as being old and wise.”
Page 260
“Maybe it was the proximity of death talking, the reaper buffeting her clear helmet with sand and toxins. What did any of it matter, seeing how wide and full the world was? Her silo would probably go on. Other silos surely would.”
Page 469