WOOL by Hugh Howey - review (☆☆☆☆)

          This is a first for me:  a 540 page, self-published SF book that's can't-put-it-down good.  I plan to immediately hunt for more Hugh Howey books.

          To accurately review this book I need to explain why it was not 5-star 'amazing' and only 4-star 'really liked it'.  Simply put: for a novel to get my highest rating it needs to stir emotions and my intelligence.   The first current-day author who comes to mind (who always does both) is Patrick Rothfuss.

          PROS:  The milieu in WOOL is expertly described and imaginatively revealed.  Every character is rendered with finesse; we quickly care about these characters.  The story unfolds at the right speed...the reader figures out what will come next just a bit before the characters do.   The grammar is flawless.  The plot exposition is perfect with a great beginning, an informative middle, and an explosive third act. 

          CONS:   Even with a large variety of death on display, WOOL isn't gory, gritty, or dark and it is barbie-and-ken asexual.   The target audience is pre-teens and teens; adults will like this book as much as they liked Harry Potter, but they'll quickly recognize that—other than the thrill of suspense—it doesn't make you laugh or cry or shudder or...you get the gist.  Also, at no point did I learn a new way of thinking about an old idea, let alone anything novel.  In fact, there's a massive flaw in the physics around page 400.  If the author did any research on scuba diving he could have fixed it with a few added sentences (and, thus, proof that editors and first-draft readers are valuable).

          KIND OF A SPOILER:  Note to Mr Howey - Air, trapped in a flexible container under water, is compressed by the weight of the water.  As that container rises to the surface the air expands.  Under hundreds of feet of water the air will expand exponentially when surfacing.  (Juliette's suit would have exploded as she surfaced quickly and if she weren't continually exhaling her lungs would have exploded too).

          For me, the Pros massively outweigh the Cons.  This would make a great holiday gift for any young fan of Speculative Fiction (and especially those who like post-apocalyptic SF).

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