Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wool 4: The Unraveling

Wool 4: The Unraveling, by Hugh Howey

There is a legend in their past of an uprising, a war they have learned about, but have learned nothing from.

Nobody knows what went wrong. Nobody talks about what happened. Such are the silo taboos.

Now, nearly two hundred years later, the people of the Silo will get a chance to learn more about that distant uprising.

They'll get to start one of their own...

My Reaction:
This is probably my least favorite in the series, so far.  (I think...)  It's not that it doesn't have its high points-- because it does-- but the story is largely split into three strands set in different places, among different people, and when you find that you're groaning to yourself every time one of those strands comes back up (which is roughly a third or more of the book), it's not a good sign.  Also, this is definitely a "middle of a series" effort.  You pick up from one cliffhanger and leave off with another.

I'll have to finish the series to know more about how I feel about this book, I think.  Also, it might have hurt the book that I took a break after reading Wool 3 before starting Wool 4... Actually, though, I think what was more of an issue was that I got distracted by life and took a week or so away from the book before reading what turned out to be the final three segments.  Never a satisfying way to finish a book, in my opinion.  Much better to read the last bit while more of the whole work is fresh in your mind.

(SPOILER-filled) Specific Comments:

--  There are a lot of (apparent) suicides and suicidal thoughts in the silo.  Now, I'm fairly sure that some of these so-called suicides will eventually be ruled as murders (or if nothing else, we're certainly meant to have suspicions), but even with those aside, it's a pretty dark series.  I don't doubt, however, that there would be suicides in this sort of situation, with people holed up in close quarters from birth to death, with not much hope for an improvement in circumstances.

--  Juliette uses vats of soup to clean her suit.  I found myself wondering how those could still be wet enough to pour, if the people in the building were evidently so long dead.  Wouldn't all the liquid in them have dried out, leaving nothing but a solid "soup brick"?  If she found the soup inside a refrigerator or freezer, maybe that would make a difference, but I'm a bit skeptical.  Later on, Howey does mention something about water in open containers having long since evaporated out-- and we eventually discover that the soup must've been sitting there for well over thirty years.  I'm just curious. (Now that I think back, it seems like maybe she had to struggle to open the soup.  Was it sealed in airtight buckets?  If so, that would explain it. Duh! (g))

--  Lest there be any misunderstanding, the "strand" of the book I found comparatively boring was Knox and the people of Mechanical and Supply rallying to war and marching up the silo.  Up until they started actually mobilizing, it was interesting, but the further along that storyline went, the less I wanted to read with it.  Parts of it felt clichéd, and I'd have much rather spent more time in the new silo.  (Maybe one reason I dreaded this thread was that it was bound to end badly.)

--  Knox's speech to Supply... felt embarrassing and too grand to be realistic.  I squirmed.  Maybe that's just me, though.  I tend to find that sort of thing (whether in a book or a movie) unrealistic when supposedly concocted on the spur of the moment.  I think he does take some time to stop and think before speaking-- probably an attempt to mollify us over this very point-- but it wasn't enough to convince me, I guess. (g)  Perhaps it's just that since I'd be very unlikely to make such a speech (because I'd feel so silly doing it and am not generally an eloquent speaker), I find it difficult to imagine other people doing so-- especially without time for writing and preparation.  Even Lincoln didn't deliver the Gettysburg address impromptu.  ;o)

--  When Juliette finds tomatoes growing in the second silo, she wonders if tomatoes require seeding or "come back every year like weeds".  That gave me pause.  How long, again, are people supposed to have been living in these silos?  Hundreds of years, right?  It has to have been a long time, for people to have forgotten/failed to pass down through an oral tradition stories of so many animals... and speak/think about whoever built the silos as almost mythical-- not historical, flesh-and-blood-- figures... and there was an uprising that occurred 200 years ago.

Anyway, all this to say that with all that time to remove and destroy existing weeds-- and no new weed seeds coming in on the wind or from birds... How does Juliette even know what a weed is?  I doubt she would-- especially since she has nothing to do with the farming levels of the silo.  ...Unless the concept of a weed has somehow stayed alive in the silo longer than the memory of so many animals (despite the existence of children's books, which frequently focus on animals).  I guess it's possible, but I doubt it. (Another possibility:  They keep weeds alive in the silo simply to avoid the extinction of the species-- or in case they should prove useful later on.  But this is a no-nonsense world, and unless the weeds serve some purpose, I doubt they'd be purposely cultivated.  After all, they "steal" precious nutrients that could otherwise go to the food-producing plants.)

--  "Juliette wondered if she would start talking to objects, now.  Start going crazy."

Ugh, it's one of my pet peeves.  No, Juliette, talking "to objects"-- or simply aloud to yourself-- does not mean you're crazy or even simply "going" crazy.  Now, if you start imagining that they actually feel or think-- or if you're talking to them and expecting or hearing answers... ;o)

--  I know thirty-four years is a long time to be alone in a silo... and Solo is somewhat immature / stuck in the mindset of a teenager, since that's how old he was when he was deprived of human contact... but there were a couple times when I had to roll my eyes at the things he said.  He was sixteen when all that happened, if I recall correctly.  Sixteen is plenty old enough for him to have matured to the level of not blushing over the concept of, ahem, "waste elimination", for instance.  And when he says, "I talk to things sometimes, and whistle.  I'm a good whistler"... I just don't know.  Is that realistic, do you think?  Maybe it is.  To me it feels slightly less "50-year-old guy who's been completely alone for 34 years" and more "someone that even Forrest Gump would recognize as 'simple' and treat with extra kindness and sensitivity".  But I do like Solo, poor guy.  I hope he makes it along with Juliette back to "her" silo.  He deserves a nicer life.  Of course, then there's the question of how well he'd be able to adjust to an existence suddenly crowded with other people...

--  There seemed to be more cursing in this book than in the previous parts of the series, something I noticed with a certain degree of disappointment.  However, most of the time, the cursing comes from a handful of bad apples / generally disagreeable characters (except for the very end, when Juliette drops a couple of f-bombs on Bernard)-- and if you're going to complain about something, Lukas' contemplation of suicide seems much more objectionable / bad influence-y than "bad words"-- but still, I noticed it, so I mention it.

I was interested to see that someone pointed out this issue in a review on Amazon-- someone who was evidently much more bothered by the cursing than I was-- and that the author himself replied.  His response noted what I'd already observed-- that most of the cursing comes from "bad guys" or people in extremely emotional situations.  (And let's admit that it's fairly realistic.  I'll admit it: I curse, too, sometimes-- though I try to stay on the milder end of the spectrum. (g))  What really struck me, though, was his apologetic and respectful tone.  I'm impressed by such handling of negative feedback!

Final word:
I may take another break before picking up Wool 5.  (Variety: the spice of life.)  I think that's the last in this series (though there are also at least two prequels).  I'm hoping for a strong finish!