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A Book A Week: The Wool series by Hugh Howey
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Hugh Howey's The Wool Series is composed of eight novellas (the first one of which is called Wool) that all take place in a post-apocalyptic U.S., where a small contingent of survivors are holed up in something resembling a missile silo. Howey self-published this series through Amazon's Kindle Direct publishing system starting in 2011. Book eight was published in January 2013. All the novellas are available in various permutations (singly and in omnibus editions) as Amazon Kindle downloads, and volumes 1-5 are now available in print from Simon & Schuster.

Howey made news when he struck his print deal with Simon & Schuster (which occurred after these books were already Kindle bestsellers) because he retained the e-book rights. I wanted to try the series in part because I've been enjoying the post-apocalyptic genre, but mostly because I was interested in seeing whether a self-published book was any good. I'm skeptical of self-published books because they seem like such wild cards. Some have lots of spelling and grammatical errors, not to mention derivative plots. I prefer to read books that have been professionally edited -- is that such a bad thing?

I have only read the first three volumes (Wool, Proper Gauge and Casting Off; as a knitter I love these allusions, but these books are definitely not about knitting). So far the plot and setting seem a little like "the survivors of the vampire apocalypse go to District 13," but I have a feeling that greater complexity is right around the corner. At least I hope so.

Right now, these feel a bit formulaic to me, but perhaps that's a function of reading three in a row, rather than spacing them out as you would if you were caught up. Howey is a good (if workmanlike) writer (and there are certainly no typos); the characters are likable (except those who are supposed to be hate-able), and there is no shortage of strong women characters. That said, why am I not rushing out to read volumes4-8? I'm not sure. Maybe I just need a break from post-apocalyptic dread.

I noticed on Amazon that at least four authors have self-published e-books that are set in Howey's world. From what I can tell, two of the authors have Howey's blessing, as evidenced by quotes from him in the product description. So he's authorizing fan fiction; that's interesting.


Becky Holmes blogs about books at A Book A Week.

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