The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


May 3, 2013

Joe Hadsall: Characters shine in Howey's 'Wool'

JOPLIN, Mo. — There's a meme picture that pops up in my social feeds every once in a while. It has an illustration of someone wearing glasses sitting on a stack of books, curled up, clearly depressed. The text around it says, "That moment when you finish a book, look around and realize that everyone is just carrying on with their lives ... as though you didn't just experience emotional trauma at the hands of a paperback."

Once I got over the gag reflex caused by the bad grammar of "that moment" memes, I completely identified, agreed and clicked "like" on that sad, little person. The feeling of getting swept away by a good book is thrilling during the reading, and depressing when the story is done.

I'm in the midst of deep depression right now. I want to go back to the world of "Wool."

Written by Hugh Howey, "Wool" is the story of a civilization living in an underground silo. Plunging deep into the earth, the silo is so big that a trip down the stairs to the mechanical levels is the equivalent of a road trip to Florida -- it takes hours to climb down the stairs, and even more hours to climb back up.

There's a cardinal sin in the silo: Expressing any interest in going outside. Once someone says they want out, they are instantly found guilty and sentenced to a unique type of death: Cleaning.

The reason everyone lives in the silo is because the atmosphere above is toxic and fatal. Everyone can see the world through the eyes of four cameras positioned at the top. So when someone is sentenced to cleaning, they are charged with putting on a special suit, climbing on top of the silo and cleaning those crucial lenses that give everyone inside a view of the world.

Once they are done cleaning, they are done. The door doesn't open back up. Their suits fail, and they die.

If you're worried that I've exposed too much, don't worry. All that is discovered in the first two chapters. There are 80 more, absolutely filled with secrets, mysteries and revelations -- and man, are they incredible.

"Wool" is a sci-fi epic of tremendous scope that ranges from claustrophobic to vast. But like any book that really moves me, Howey excels at revealing the world through his characters, from Holston, the sheriff who decides that he wants to be a cleaner, to Juliette, the mechanical perfectionist who rises from the bottom level and discovers the silo's secrets.

Howey's characters completely hooked me. I truly hated the bad guys, and truly cheered when they got outsmarted by heroes.

But what really hooked me was Howey's style of writing. He adroitly creates the world in my head by painting small pictures -- only when you step back do you realize that the small pictures are part of a large mural. Each chapter became a sort of puzzle, working out exactly what happened, and who got the upper hand.

And his characters are unique. Clever, skilled and aware of their surroundings (reasonably enough, anyway), Juliette and others engage their opponents in brilliant chess games that unfold in such a satisfying way.

Howey has created a world that, despite its fatal toxicity, I would love to see in real life. Despite all he revealed, there is still so much to discover about that world.

Hence my depression. "Wool" is that good. It's only April, but I'm pretty sure I just got done reading the best book of 2013.

And there's a bonus: My depression over the end of "Wool" brightened considerably during the research for this column: I found out Howey has written a sequel.

Back to the thrill.

Text Only
  • 071814_whiskeydicks.jpg Stretching out: Whiskey Dick's can do more in a bigger downtown location

    For the Whiskey Dick's owners, it isn't a matter of what's in a name but more of a place where everybody knows your name.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 072514_LIVEWIREcar.jpg Livewire's new video debuts on Billboard (w/VIDEO)

    The song is currently on Billboard's Top 40 charts for Texas Music and Texas Regional Radio Report. It is the latest release since the band's first full-length album, "Livin'," which was released in 2012 with Way Out West Records.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Film-Hollywoods Ape M_Cast.jpg Benji Tunnell: Great CGI, solid writing make 'Apes' a near-perfect blockbuster

    A couple of weeks ago, we saw "Transformers 4," a big, computer-driven blockbuster film that was symbolic of all that is wrong with filmmaking today.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • polyphony.jpg Marta Churchwell: New Mexico marimba group returns for concert Sunday

    They're back. Polyphony Marimba, the Santa Fe, New Mexico, band that wowed the crowd with African music during a Downtown Joplin Third Thursday last summer, received such a response to that performance that they're coming back on Sunday.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • River Regatta 2013.jpg Dave Woods: Nevada regatta makes for a birthday escape

    In just three weeks, I'll spend my 50th birthday floating down the Colorado River with 35,000 of my closest friends.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow 1 Story

  • 071814_pickin trimmin.jpg New festival focuses on short independent films

    As Jack Truman saw his films play in festivals around the world, one lingering thought persisted: He wished that such festivals existed in his hometown area.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071614 Glory Days_72.jpg Glory Days Music to resume weekly in-store concerts

    The staff at Glory Days Music have been working their business as usual. Musicians demonstrate guitars, drums and other instruments. Music is sold; lessons are taught. But something has been missing.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Joe Hadsall: All the hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

    I sincerely believe the "Word Crimes" video will become the most important song in history, and the most mandatory-to-watch video in schools across the country.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Globe Phone Test: Concept is clever, but transitions tricky with Asus PadFone X

    It's kind of embarrassing to point this out, but "Candy Crush Saga" is one of the best ways to illustrate how well the Asus PadFone X, a smartphone and tablet combo really works.

    Anyone who has more than one device will understand this situation completely: Let's say a player fires up "Candy Crush" on his tablet computer and really digs the game. A lot. So much so that he downloads it to his smartphone.

    Only there's one problem: All the progress made on the tablet is stuck on the tablet. The smartphone has a completely separate path of progress, meaning the player has to play each level twice. This makes progress through the game twice as long. (This problem can be fixed by signing up for the game on Facebook, but no one really wants their Facebook friends to know they spend so much time crushin' candy.)

    The Asus PadFone X is the dream solution to this nightmare of a problem.

    Available exclusively from AT&T, the device is actually two devices. A standalone smartphone can be plugged into a tablet computer, meaning the owner can take his pick of how he wants to play the game, and all the progress he makes is saved on one device's hard drive.

    AT&T loaned us a device that we tested for more than two weeks -- didn't like having to send it back -- and we found a lot of its qualities and quirks.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tantric tours in support of latest studio album

    "37 Channels," the latest album from Hugo Ferreira's band, features a lineup of guests including Hinder's Austin Winkler, Shooter Jennings, 3 Doors Down drummer Greg Upchurch, Uncle Kracker guitarist Kevin McCreery, Saving Abel guitarist Scott Bartlett and Leif Garrettt.

    July 11, 2014