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Wool: A Self-Publishing Success Story

Wool: A Self-Publishing Success Story

If you’re at all familiar with the sci-fi/fantasy book world, especially when it comes to the plentiful dystopian novels, you’ve probably heard of Hugh Howey. He’s been in the news recently talking about self-publishing. Self-published fiction is a veritable minefield. For every well-written novel out there, there are hundreds of poorly written and badly edited (or not edited at all) books waiting in the wings. There’s a lot of trial and error involved in finding a good self-published book. But Howey’s sales figures speak for themselves (over 500,000 copies of Wool sold, according to the Wall Street Journal), so we decided it was high time we give these little books a chance.

And by “little,” we do mean quite literally. Though there is an omnibus edition of Wool (which is what we read), the book is actually made up of several stories, varying in length. They’re all about similar characters and related to one another; together, they tell one long (and rather bleak) story. There are three larger collections of Wool stories, but we’ll start with Wool: The Omnibus Edition.

The premise of Wool is as follows: in the distant future, mankind (or, at least what’s left of mankind) lives beneath the surface. The Earth’s atmosphere has been poisoned; the survivors live in a single underground silo, alone in the world. The laws are restrictive in the silo; any talk of wanting to see the wider world outside comes with one single punishment: banishment to the surface.

Once outside, prisoners are asked to complete one single task before the die: clean the monitors so that the silo can see the outside world. Every single prisoner, no matter what they are charged with or how resentful they are, completes this task diligently before dropping dead. But why? What compels them to clean for those left behind, for a society that’s shunned them?

It’s best to not know more than this going into Wool; this premise is enough. You’re plunged deep into the politics of the silo immediately, left to figure out the way things work. But Howey does a great job getting the reader up to speed; this book moves fast. Even the quietest moments seem to be packed with tension. And once the action starts, it doesn’t let up for a second.

Howey also does a great job with his characters, which isn’t easy considering the sheer number of them. And if you’re worried about typos and editing, an issue with typical self-published novels, don’t be. Howey clearly hired a professional editor to look over his work, and it shows on every page with the clean, crisp writing.

But what’s most surprising about Wool is how no character is safe. This is not your typical YA dystopian, where in the end, you know that everything is going to be okay. Howey doesn’t hesitate to kill off his main characters left and right. It’s not a happy, uplifting read; in fact it’s downright bleak and despondent. In the end, it’s the characters that are the main story of Wool. It’s their resilience and determination that make up the core of these stories. If you’re a fan of dystopian stories, you’d do well to pick up Wool. It’s creative and impressive, which is very hard to do these days in this jam-packed genre.

What's your favorite self published novel?

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Tags: fiction, reviews, dystopian fiction, books-and-comics, self publishing, wool

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About the Author
Swapna Krishna

Swapna is a Washington, DC-based freelance editor who loves all things space and sci fi. You can find her book reviews at S. Krishna’s Books ( and on Twitter at @skrishna.

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