Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wool. (And no, this is not a post about my wife...)

... despite the fact that she is well into all things wooly.*

Actually, technically, I guess we do have Min to thank for this post, because she's the one who put me on to Wool. If you haven't clicked the link yet, I'm not talking about the warm stuff we make from sheep, and which we have a room full of at home. I'm talking about the e-book by Hugh Howey.

Now, I'll be completely honest and admit (and I can't escape the feeling that I'm about to paint a big target on my back with some people by saying this) that I'm not a massive admirer of an awful lot of self-published e-books. I've read a few, and some of them have been okay. And some of them have been just goddammed awful**.  Very few grab and engage me as much as commercially published (in digital form or otherwise) writing though. I often find myself, even with the good ones, wishing the writer had just learned to self-edit a little more critically, or paid someone to do it for them. Don't get me wrong - there's an awful lot that's exciting about writers having the capacity to 'do it for themselves', and I'm all for it as a general principle. It's just that - to my mind at least*** - it often feels to me that in some of these books the crafting of the writing isn't quite as developed as the ideas driving the story, or the packaging of it.****

But, by God, Wool makes me take all these preconceptions and throw them out the window.

This is great writing. And great reading. Without a doubt one of the finest pieces of sci-fi I've read in a long time. Min got the omnibus edition (Wool 1-5) on her Kindle and loaned it to me (one excellent decision by Hugh Howey was to allow digital loaning of his work), and I chewed through it in two days, reading until 1.30 in the morning. And this at a time when I, frankly, needed every bit of sleep I could muster.

I'm not going to even touch upon the plot - I don't want to risk spoilering any aspect of it. It's too good for that. All I'll say, though, is that it's beautifully written - Howey's capacity to establish and build tension is second to none, and his flair for characterisation reminded me somewhat of Stephen King - and just as importantly, it's beautifully crafted; not a word out of place. It's not a single stand-alone novel, but a series of novellas, a form which has lately been overlooked in publishing, and which harks back to some of the greats of the sci-fi genre; Asimov, Phillip K Dick. And the world of these books. Oh. My. God.

So. In short, if you have a digital reading device, then do yourself a favour and get this. You won't regret it. I promise.

*We got her a loom for her birthday. It made her very, very happy.
**for any potential or current self published e-book authors reading this, don't take it personally. It's not you, it's me.
*** and this is my blog, so my mind is all you get...
**** but then, I'm a commercial writer who teaches creative writing at a university***** so my perspective is not likely to be everyone's.
***** ie: a wanker

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