Genre: Speculative Fiction

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Posted October 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

Station Eleven by Emily St John MandelTitle: Station Eleven (Goodreads)
Author: Emily St John Mandel
Published: Pan Macmillan, 2014
Pages: 333
Genres: Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Emily St John Mandel’s new novel Station Eleven begins with a performance of King Lear; everything was going smoothly until the lead actor Arthur Leander dies on stage. A new strand of the flu known as the Georgia Flu sweeps the world. It “exploded like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth” and wiped out 99% of humanity. This all happens in the first 30 pages, the rest of the novel focuses on a group of performers known as The Travelling Symphony, who travel America putting on Shakespeare plays to those surviving colonies.

The post-apocalyptic novel has been a popular topic over the past few years. There are millions of YA novels on the topic and in the world of literary fiction it books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Passage by Justin Cronin and the Maddaddam series by Margaret Atwood dominate. Recently I have read some post-apocalyptic novels that have failed to satisfy me in the way that books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy had in the past. Both California by Edan Lepucki and On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee had potential but just did not get there. Luckily Emily St John Mandel was there to restore my faith in the literary post-apocalyptic genre.

What I look for in a post-apocalyptic can be difficult to pin point. I want a dark but glittering novel that is both intelligent and audacious. It needs to do something that is different so it will be set apart from others. Station Eleven did this for me; this is not a novel about the aftermath of a global pandemic, this is about the power and importance of art. Not so much the survival of art but the importance it plays on a more personal level.

Mandel wrote a roving novel that follows a group of people struggling with life in a desolate time. This is a stylistic and complex novel told in a non-linear way to explore both the present struggles like the rarity of food and water and the disappearance of all technology. This is an exploration into individuals rather than a collective destiny. Each character has their own story to tell and the non-linear format allows their backstory to be told. They are struggling with memories, loss, nostalgia, solitude and yearning from some stability.

Canadian author Emily St John Mandel is one of those authors that receives high praises for her novels but still manages to fly mostly under-the-radar. I hate to use this term, but with all the praise from other authors she comes across as a ‘writer for writers’. Based on my experience of her writing from Station Eleven this a sad situation, her skills deserve to be realised by the reading public.

I am glad I picked up this novel; I was a little hesitant but I had heard so much about Emily St John Mandel that I just had to find out for myself. To begin with the story of Shakespearian actors was what made this different but I soon found the haunting and complex plot  full of subtleties that worked in the books favour. I am still hesitant of all the new post-apocalyptic novels to come but now I know not to overlook Emily St John Mandel in the future.

California by Edan Lepucki

Posted October 11, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

California by Edan LepuckiTitle: California (Goodreads)
Author: Edan Lepucki
Narrator: Emma Galvin
Published: Hachette, 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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Cal and Frida is living in the middle of the 21st century, however it wasn’t the future we expected. Cities have crumbled, the internet has died and technology is worthless. Leaving city life behind, they now have to live in the wilderness, struggling to survive. Isolation and hardship are all new experiences; they live in fear of an uncertain future. A future that now consists of giving birth and raising a child in this post-apocalyptic world.

The post-apocalyptic back drop has been hugely popular lately and it isn’t just young adult fiction. Many literary fiction authors have tried their hand at the genre, giving them a unique world to explore real life issues. I’m thinking of great books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, The Passage by Justin Cronin and the Maddaddam series by Margaret Atwood. Edan Lepucki’s California sets out to join the ranks of the great with this overly ambitious first novel.

I will be honest, the only reason I picked up California was because of the promotion that appeared on The Colbert Report a while ago. The novel had enough to peak my interest but I had great difficulty getting a copy where I lived. Ironically I finally settled on getting the book through Audible to listen to. The premise of the novel was great; the idea of a world returning to the dark ages offered some interesting ideas. While we are never sure, the novel does allude to global warming as the underlining cause of this post-apocalyptic world.

I expected this novel to be the slow burn that The Road provided, building the characters and struggle while exploring the intended themes. However, I think this book burned a little too slowly, the flame went out halfway through and it turned into more of a chore to get through. Sure, the notions of communities, eco-terrorism and climate change were explored but for me it felt like I was being beaten over my head every chance they got. The book wanted to show off how smart and witty it was but, like many things that try to do this, the delivery never matched the intent.

California moved so slowly that as a reader, I was trapped in the wilderness of nothingness and I didn’t think I could escape. This was a real pity, everything seemed to start off so well; there was a plot arc and themes all set up and ready for execution. Somewhere on the way I feel like the author got a little lost and the readers were just following to her struggle to get back on track. I might come down hard on this novel; it isn’t too bad, there is a lot of potential and could have been a great book. For me it just didn’t work and wasn’t paced properly, I’m sure some people enjoyed it

Maddaddam by Margret Atwood

Posted December 23, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 2 Comments

Maddaddam by Margret AtwoodTitle: Maddaddam (Goodreads)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: Maddaddam #3
Published: Bloomsbury, 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

A man-made plague has swept across the earth and wiped out most of humanity. Few survived, along with the Crakers (a new bio-engineered species). There may not be much hope for humans to survive but the Crakers have a chance. Toby and Zeb tell the story of just what happens next, in the conclusion of this great epic post-apocalyptic trilogy.

This is the final instalment in the Maddaddam story; a trilogy that I binge read over the past few months. Just a quick recap; Oryx and Crake tell the story of these two as well as Snowman, the destruction of the world and the creation of the Crakers. At the same time The Year of the Flood tells the story of Toby and The Gardeners (a religious cult). Those two books run in parallel and lead us to Maddaddam, where the two stories meet.

I’m not too sure how I feel about the final novel in this trilogy. On one hand this is a rather upbeat finale that ties everything up into a nice little bow and on the other, I much prefer bleak and I feel this novel was unnecessary. Not to say it was bad but both Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood worked well as standalone novels, they both interconnect but you could probably read one or the other without confusion. When it comes to Maddaddam you really do need to have read the first two books, there is a “previously on the Maddaddam trilogy” moment at the start of the book but this is a novel to fill in the gaps. I don’t mind gaps, I like leaving questions unanswered but I can understand why Margret Atwood would choose to wrap things up.

Maddaddam is a novel about renewal Oryx and Crake focuses on the destructive nature of science, and The Year of the Flood looked at religious fanaticism; I’m a little surprised this book was more positive. Atwood writes really thought provoking novels and Maddaddam is no different, though this does feel more optimistic. This novel focuses heavily on science and politics, two of Margret Atwood’s favourite topics and she does leave the reader with plenty to think about.

One thing I found in this novel that surprised me was the dark humour; I don’t remember Oryx and Crake or The Year of the Flood being this funny. The dark post-apocalyptic themes were evident within this book, I was just thrown by the outlook and ending; it felt almost joyous. In the end it did wrap up the series in a nice way, despite my feelings toward this novel, it was a great read and the whole series is worth checking out.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Posted December 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 4 Comments

The Martian by Andy WeirTitle: The Martian (Goodreads)
Author: Andy Weir
Published: Crown, February 11th 2014
Pages: 384
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Edelweiss

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In a freak dust storm NASA aborted a mission on Mars. leaving behind one astronaut; the crew evacuated thinking him dead. Now Mark Watney is stuck, with the damage done to the equipment he might not have time to starve to death. He was the first person to walk on Mars and he is going to be the first to die there too.

The age of the self-published novel is upon us and every now and then we hear people talking about a book getting a publishing deal and going on to be hugely successful. Fifty Shades of Grey being the first of these, then came Wool and I believe The Martian will be the next sensation book. I can’t help but think of this book as Moon (the movie) set on Mars. You have this man verses nature, fight to survive type thriller but help is about 225 million kilometres away (that’s the average; it does depend on the time of year).

You have a few parts to this novel; firstly you have a log book telling the majority of Mark Watney’s story. Then you read about NASA’s rush attempts to find a way to save him and finally you get a first-hand account of Watney when the epistolary style won’t work. The tension that builds in this book is key to why this novel works so well; this is edge of your seat thriller writing at its best.

What I loved the most about this novel was the humour, while this was a tense book, the little one liners thrown in really worked for me. I just liked how Mark Watney’s mind worked; it was a case of too much time on his hands. At one point in the novel he uses maritime law to work out how he can become a space pirate. Then the novel gets scientific, I’m not good at science but I did wonder how accurate this part of the book was. I’m not going to try mixing Oxygen and two parts Hydrogen to make water, it just sounds too dangerous.

For me, I loved every minute of reading The Martian, which is a little surprising; I can’t remember when the last time I truly enjoyed a Science Fiction novel. There are some that I got a lot out of but nothing this enjoyable. This book isn’t going to be released till February next year and unfortunately the self-published ebook is no longer available. Having said that, pre-order this one; I think there will be a lot of hype behind this, but don’t let that stop you from ordering first.

The Year of the Flood by Margret Atwood

Posted October 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

The Year of the Flood by Margret AtwoodTitle: The Year of The Flood (Goodreads)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: Maddaddam #2
Narrator: Lorelei King
Published: Bloomsbury, 2009
Pages: 434
Genres: Dystopia, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Year of the Flood follows the lives of two characters, Toby and Ren. Toby is a young woman who lost her family and the corporations are to blame. She is forced work in a burger chain you would never want to eat at, that was until she met the Gardeners. Ren grows up working in a sex club called Scales and Tails. She previously dated Jimmy (Snowman) and found herself locked in bio-containment when the pandemic happened.

This is the second book in the Maddaddam trilogy and happens simultaneously to Oryx and Crake (for the most part). While book one jumped between the dystopian corporations-controlled world and after the pandemic, The Year of the Flood is more linear and set mainly in the pre-apocalyptic world. While it isn’t really necessary to read Oryx and Crake first, I think the majority of the world building was done in the first book leaving this one more open to focus on the characters and plot.

I will admit I loved the way Oryx and Crake portrayed the corporations dystopian world I love so much but I think The Year of the Flood was overall a better novel. I liked the characters more and the portrayal of a religious cult was fascinating. Margret Atwood seems to draw a lot on personal religious experiences and then build on that to create this cult. I’ve been in plenty of churches, have met many religious fanatics and it really feels like Atwood has too.

She even took the religious element one step further by adding 14 hymns; even during her book promotions and on the audio book they have performances of these hymns. I think Atwood managed to balance religious fanaticism and hostile corporation practises just right in the novel. Both never felt overpowering and allowed for character and plot development to take the foreground.

The more I read of Atwood the more I am in awe of her brilliance. I remember reading The Handmaids Tale and never really thought too much of it but now I that I know her style and the messages she wants to get across, I feel like I should try that book again. There are some other Atwood books I want to try as well so they might have to come first.

I’m entrenched in the Maddaddam world and looking forward to reading the final novel in the trilogy. Luckily I have the book on my shelf waiting and I probably read it soon. I don’t normally read a series (or the same author) so close together but I was sucked in and needed more from this world. Fans of both post apocalyptic and dystopian novels should check out the Maddaddam trilogy, there are some interesting themes through the first two books and I’m sure it will continue in book three.

Player One by Douglas Coupland

Posted October 6, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

Player One by Douglas CouplandTitle: Player One (Goodreads)
Author: Douglas Coupland
Published: Windmill Books, 2011
Pages: 246
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Player One tells the story of five people trapped in an international airport during a global disaster. Over the next five hours, these lives are changed forever;  a single mother waiting for an online date, an airport cocktail lounge bartender, a pastor on the run, a cool blonde bombshell incapable of love and a mysterious person known as Player One. The novel follows the interactions of these five people as they react to the chaos as we slowly find out just what happened.

Douglas Coupland masterfully explores human interactions in the midst of a disaster as well as looking at things like human identity, religion and sociology in this sharp and to-the-point novel. Coupland is a bestselling author that writes some very easy to read post modernism and is often dealing with topics such as religion, Web 2.0 technology, human sexuality, and pop culture. This is my first Douglas Coupland novel but it isn’t the last of them. He reminds me a little of a modern Kurt Vonnegut with his philosophical approach to science fiction. Think a modern Cat’s Cradle where the disaster dealing with modern issues rather than those of the atomic age.

I’m finding this novel really hard to review because honestly, I don’t want to give anything away. This is the kind of novel you enjoy more if you don’t know too much about it. I don’t want to give the impression that this is a heavily philosophical novel, Coupland writes in a way that is accessible for readers of all ages. Almost like a YA novel but for a more serious reader you have all these ideas worth exploring; this is the stuff I have the most fun with. I just love a complex novel that seems basic on the surface but if you are willing, you can spend hours trying to analyse.

I don’t think this reads like a post-apocalyptic fiction, but it does feel like this is the right genre. The entire novel takes place in a bar over five hours and feels more like a postmodernist novel rather than anything else. I’m not going to spend time trying to work out what genres to fit this into but rather just wrap up this review.

I know this is a little short but I really don’t want to give too much away. Just tell people to try it, maybe not the type of novel for females but if you like Vonnegut or like the sound of this novel then maybe this is for you. I’ll be interested in hearing people’s thoughts on this book. I’m sorry this is a weird review but better to say too little than too much. It’s only 200 pages long so won’t take too much effort to try.

The Machine by James Smythe

Posted September 11, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction / 6 Comments

The Machine by James SmytheTitle: The Machine (Goodreads)
Author: James Smythe
Published: Blue Door, 2013
Pages: 328
Genres: Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Beth lives in a remote village by the sea, a desolate place where she can rebuild her life following the return of her husband after the war. Vic is haunted by his memories and turns to a machine to take his nightmares away, but it takes everything away; now Beth is determined to rebuild him.

Dubbed as Frankenstein for the 21st century, The Machine is a wonderfully dark and complex novel that really deserves more attention. I normally get annoyed when novels are compared to Frankenstein; how can any novel truly compare? The Machine was a different story; I wasn’t expecting it to compare to Frankenstein, I was more interested with the dark and complex nature of this book. The novel reminds me more of the British TV show Black Mirror; there are two episodes in particular, the episode where all memories are recorded for instant playback (1×3) and the one where a woman loses her husband and turns to a service that continues his online life (2×1). The show is considered “a hybrid of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected which taps into our contemporary unease about our modern world” and is designed to be thought provoking. In fact The Machine feels right at home with the style of that show.

Imagine if you can record all your memories and then wipe the ones that cause pain?  Would removing some memories change a person completely? What if that machine wipes every memory and leaves the person catatonic? What are the moral implications of playing with someone’s memories? How should the government regulate scientific advances like this? If you could, would you try to rebuild a loved one? There are just so many questions to answer and The Machine does a great job of creating more. Don’t expect answers, this book is all about giving you questions.

I love a novel that gets you questioning life and philosophy. James Smythe masterfully does what so many try to do, it’s so refreshing to read something like this but it makes me sad that this book isn’t getting more attention. I feel the need to read every James Smythe book I can get my hands on in the desire to experience this feeling again. Science Fiction is a genre that really can explore humanity and morality and Smythe reminds the readers that it’s possible. In the 60s and 70s it felt like all Sci-Fi novels had a message and we have exchanged that for entertainment. Not that there is anything wrong with entertaining the reader but you can do that while exploring philosophical ideas.

There is so much I want to say about this book and the majority of it is positive but I won’t, I think everyone should read this book and experience it for themselves. The plot is compelling and James Smythe writes like a master of his craft. The Machine has already secured a place in my “best books of 2013” list and I want to read more of his books, just to have this experience again. Go out now and get your copy of The Machine.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Posted September 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia, Speculative Fiction / 12 Comments

Oryx and Crake by Margaret AtwoodTitle: Oryx and Crake (Goodreads)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Series: Maddaddam #1
Published: Bloomsbury, 2003
Pages: 378
Genres: Dystopia, Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Jimmy was a member of a scientific elite, living in isolation, suffering through bitter loneliness. Then an unnamed apocalypse came along, now he is known as Snowman and he may be one of the few survivors. This post-apocalyptic hermit resides near; what he refers to as Crakers—strange human-like creatures. In flashbacks the story develops, the Crakers, Wolvogs, Pigoons and Rakunks are assorted life forms that are the products of genetic engineering.

Oryx and Crake are the symbols of a fractured society, which Jimmy was once a part of. This is where trying to explain this novel can get complex. There are two different worlds within this book the post-apocalyptic world but then there are the flashbacks. The dystopian world was far more interesting for me. Much like Super Sad True Love Story. this is a dystopian world that I can see coming, corporation’s rule the world and pornography has become mainstream. It is normal to watch live executions and surgeries, nudie news (apparently watching the news when they are fully clothed is just weird), even child pornography.

I love novels that deal with the dangers of corporations having too much power; Super Sad True Love Story is a prime example of it (I should re-read that novel) and Oryx and Crake is another example of this (need more examples). Science and marketing techniques leave the public as powerless consumers and there is nothing to stop the unprecedented corporate greed.

Genetic engineering is a slippery slope; I seem to find myself attracted to novels that deal with science going too far. Oryx and Crake is a great example of this; Crake is a scientist working in the biotech project that created the Crakers. Genetic engineering progress continued to advance and eventually lead to a complex and sinister project called Paradice, but when that collapsed it caused this global devastation.

Oryx was a girl Jimmy and Crake found on a child pornography site that eventually was hired by Crake as a prostitute and to teach the Crakers. Oryx obviously had a difficult past, and Oryx and Crake attempts to deal with this issue as well. This is not an easy issue to deal with, the majority of the world would say they are against child pornography and yet it continues to happen and we see no signs of it ever being truly dealt with. Margaret Atwood doesn’t have a problem with trying to deal with difficult issues and this novel has plenty to say.

Moving away from the dystopian world and into the post-apocalyptic one, we have a whole new set of themes and issues. While this is a direct result of the corporate destruction, now we have to deal with survival. The Crakers are like little helpless children that Snowman tries to help; so now we have parental responsibilities as a major theme as well as our social responsibilities. He also has to protect them from the Wolvogs, Pigoons, Rakunks and whatever might disrupt their civilisation.

This is the second Margaret Atwood novel I’ve read and I’m starting to see a familiar theme coming through in her novels. I believe she wants the reader to have a look at civilisation and what we are doing that is beneficial or harmful. I’m sure the rest of the Maddaddam trilogy will deal with this; I’m not sure if all her books have a similar theme but I suspect they might.

I love a novel that tells a great story but is also loaded with different themes and symbolism. I feel so fulfilled reading a book like Oryx and Crake and spending time digesting the words and examining what Atwood wants to tell us. I was meaning to read this novel for so long and now I’m left with intense desire to read the next two in the series. Thanks you Bloomsbury Australia for pressuring me into reading this book, I have no regrets.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Posted June 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction, Thriller / 0 Comments

Snow Crash by Neal StephensonTitle: Snow Crash (Goodreads)
Author: Neal Stephenson
Published: Bantam Press, 1992
Pages: 440
Genres: Speculative Fiction, Thriller
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In a time in the not so distance future where the federal government of the United States has yielded most of its power to private organizations and entrepreneurs, franchising individual sovereignty reigns supreme. Merchant armies complete national defence, highway companies compete for drivers and the mafia own the pizza delivery game. Hiro Protagonist, “Last of the freelance hackers and greatest swordfighter in the world”, finds himself without his pizza delivery job when a young skateboard “Kourier” named Y.T. tries to hitch a ride on his vehicle. Leading them on a grand scale adventure trying to uncover just what exactly Snow Crash is.

Like all of Neal Stephenson books, you can expect this one to cover subjects like  history, linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, religion, computer science, politics, cryptography, and philosophy, all while keeping to his cyberpunk thriller style. He says this book was named after the early mac software failure mode:

“When the computer crashed and wrote gibberish into the bitmap, the result was something that looked vaguely like static on a broken television set—a ‘snow crash’”

His goal, was to take the reader on a “full tour of Sumerian culture, a fully instantiated anarcho-capitalist society, and a virtual meta-society patronized by financial, social, and intellectual elites.” Snow Crash is a pseudo-narcotic or is it something far worse; Hiro and Y.T (short for Yours Truly) slowly discover that it is in fact a computer virus capable of infecting the brains of careless hackers in the Metaverse (the successor to the internet) and a mind altering virus in reality.

One of the things I liked most about Snow Crash was the fact that Neal Stephenson showed us how to write a kick ass teenage girl protagonist. Young Adult novels like to use a strong teenaged girl as a main character but few of them really know how to make her great; most are just Katniss clones. While Y.T’s narrative wasn’t as focused as that of Hiro, it was more of a pleasure to read, she seemed to accomplish the most in the entire book and she did it her own way without compromising her character. Sure, she did manage to get into some trouble and make some bad choices but she’s human, I expect them to struggle and fall and recover from their mistakes.

While this was a fun and exciting novel there are some things that I just didn’t like; firstly each ethical group portrayed the stereotypical extreme.  The mafia, the rednecks from New South Africa, the Pentecostals, Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong and so on, all felt very much like the cliché versions of these cultures and Stephenson played on the stereotypes a little too heavily. I know they were only minor plot arcs but it still felt like it was overdone. The most interesting people in the book are the ones living outside their cultural and ethnic groups; Hiro, Y.T and Raven.

Then there is my biggest problem with the book, which is a similar problem I had with Reamde and that is I feel like Neal Stephenson turns some chapters into a Wikipedia articles just to give us all the interesting information he has on a subject he is exploring. In this book it is every time the librarian talks, there is heaps and heaps of interesting, and sometimes irrelevant, information and the way Stephenson tried to stops it become and wall of text is the awkward attempt to make it sound like a conversation. Hiro keeps interrupting the librarian’s information with very simplified reiteration, agreements and metaphors, I found it incredible annoying.

Overall this was a fast paced cyber thriller with some weird and unusual tangents and twists. Stephenson has some interesting ideas about the future of the world but for some reason I never feel a strong connection to his books. I think I prefer William Gibson’s style and take on the future cyber world but can’t fault Stephenson for what he does. Not that I’ve read many books from this author and there are plenty more I want to read, maybe I just feel like he over simplifies and draws his novels out a little too much.

Wool by Hugh Howey

Posted March 15, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 12 Comments

Wool by Hugh HoweyTitle: Wool (Goodreads)
Author: Hugh Howey
Published: Random House, 2012
Pages: 537
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies. To live, you must follow the rules. But some don’t. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside. Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last

Hugh Howey’s independently released smash hit series Wool has been picked up and released as a novel. While Wool is more of an omnibus of the first five novellas, Simon and Schuster (in the US) and Random house here have been promoting it as a novel. While each novella does shift perspective, the questions at the end is what drives you to keep reading and that is what makes this a great novel. You find yourself with more questions than answers and you just need to dive into the next part in the hopes that you will have some of those questions answered, but knowing you’ll end up with more questions.

Hugh Howey has masterfully created this world built on lies and as you follow the characters you can’t help but wonder what the real truth is. Living in these huge 200 plus level underground silos, cut off from what may or may not exist outside, some lies need to be told to keep the peace. But what lie can really lead to peace? Aren’t all lies destructive by nature?

Wool is an exciting take on the dystopian/post apocalyptic genre and while there is something very familiar with this book, it also feels very fresh. The world is governed by fear and if you don’t obey you get sent outside to clean. Only problem with that is you’ll never survive the toxic air out there and this control leads to a totalitarian reign in this dystopian world. The antagonists of the silo turn out to be the IT department, because knowledge is power and this power struggle between this department and the rest of the silo is done really well.

The characters are just fantastic in this book, from Sheriff Holston who was likable but all of sudden volunteered to do the cleaning at the start of the book, to his replacement Jules, the strong minded female lead, and all the other characters on the way. I’m reminded of Game of Thrones in the way that you can never really get too attached because you never know who while be cleaning next. Even the minor characters have a sense of complexity that is often missed with other authors. This eye for detail and passion for a fast paced adventure with brilliantly flawed characters is what really makes Hugh Howey so successful.

I’m impressed with the huge success of this self published author and having read this, I now know why it works. The blend of questions with the fast pace and wonderful characters means this author is on track to become a masterful story teller. Wool really does live up to the hype and I hope you get a chance to read it soon. I’m torn between buying the kindle versions of the prequel, Shift, or to wait for the novel. I know if I buy each novella individually it will be torture waiting for my questions to be answered but I really want to go back to that world and see what Hugh Howey does with it.