Monday 24 June 2013

Wool by Hugh Howey - My Review

Setting the world alight right now is this dystopian masterwork by indie turned international literary star Hugh Howey. Just like grunge and Brit pop, I got interested at the tail end of things, getting around to reading it long after everyone else had finished it and moved on. Next up, Harry Potter.

Mucking about aside, this was a fine read. I don't really know the history of its publication beyond that it was originally an indie novella that went interstellar and spawned four more novellas to continue the story, putting Hugh Howey on the map and no doubt making him a fortune in the process. Apparently it's on Ridley Scott's desk. I'd probably fork out for a ticket to see it.

While it was separated into five sections, it felt like three stories to me. Part one, Holston, tells the story of a disillusioned sheriff a few hundred years into the future who lives in this vast subterranean silo with five thousand other people. His wife has been put to "cleaning", meaning she committed a crime and was sent outside into the toxic air in a kind of space suit to slowly die. Like everyone else sent to cleaning before her, his wife wiped clean the little video cameras that show a view of the outside world. She said she wasn't going to, but she did. Holston wants to know why.

I thought Part One was really good. Holston was an interesting character and the slow mystery of his surroundings was very intriguing.

Part Two, Proper Gauge, focused on his superior, Mayor Jahns, as she travelled into the "down deep", the area at the very bottom of the silo, to look for (highlight to see spoiler) a new sheriff. I didn't find this part nearly as interesting. It was basically a visual exploration of the silo through Jahns' eyes. Not a lot happened until the last couple of chapters.

Parts Three, Four and Five felt like the main story. They concerned Juliette, the new sheriff, who was quickly put to cleaning for a vague crime to stop her getting too deep into the secrets of the silo and the world outside. Juliette, however, manages to break the chain of all the cleaners before her and (spoiler) survives.

The rest of the book centres around what happens to Juliette outside while inside the silo two rival factions clash.

Essentially Wool is a mystery story, as a group of characters try to discover the truth about their world and the secrets that have been hidden from them. It gets really good once Juliette gets outside, and we begin to discover what's going on. There were lots of little reveals to keep you interested and it was expertly done.

There were a few things that bothered me a little. I found the naivety of some of the characters trapped inside the silo to be a little far-fetched during the uprising. They just kind of walked into battle without any real plan. Also, of a silo full of thousands of people, only a few seemed to be involved.

There were one or two other plot holes, not least when Lukas received a strange radio transmission which appeared to have nothing to do with what was actually going on with Juliette, and the ending was way too upbeat. It fitted with the story but it felt a little off compared to the dark tone of the rest of the story.

Juliette was an excellent character and her story would make a good movie. Holston and Jahns were pretty much forgotten about by the end, and I think in any kind of adapation you could keep Holston in one of those little prologue segments while dropping Jahns altogether and getting to the meat of the story.

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot and would probably read the sequel. It was well written throughout and Howey had some really nice turns of phrase, particularly early on in the book. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes dystopian fiction.

Chris Ward
24th June 2013

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Writing update June

Gone a little quiet on the blog but that's only because I've been busy. So what's been going on and what are my upcoming plans?

Of course, everything is subject to change, but that's just because I absolutely suck at keeping to deadlines. Small problem of having a day job ...

So, what I'm doing right now ...

First of all, I'm waiting for Exile to come back from it's beta readers. Providing there are no major issues, I'll be sending it off for an edit and then hopefully publishing it in mid-July. At least that's the plan ...

In new projects, I've started working on Tube Riders: Revenge. I had planned to start in September so for once I'm way ahead of schedule. I'm taking my time about it though, letting it build up slowly. I'm on to chapter three, and so far so good. The nice thing about writing slow is that the story really builds in your mind before you write it. I already have lots of ideas for what's going to happen.

It's likely that the best part of the next year will be working on Tube Riders-based books. However, I don't one to be one of those writers whose whole career is defined by one series, nor do I still want to be writing Tube Riders Volume 35 in twenty years time. I started out as a writer of stand alone books and in the long term that's what I want to be known for. However, when you're a self-published writer the easiest way to build a fanbase is to do it around a brand, so that's what I'm doing at the moment. I'm not saying that Tube Riders won't end up as five, six, seven books, because it might - it's my story and it'll be written as long as it needs to be. I have other stories, though, and at some point those also need to be written, and I certainly won't be stretching Tube Riders out just to make an extra buck.

Outside of new words, I'm currently in the process of redoing the paperback for Man Who Built the World and finally getting around to doing the one for Head of Words. It's always difficult to motivate myself to do the paperbacks as I sell about one per month and it's a massive hassle to sort out all the formatting. Still, in the event that I actually start to get successful at this I want to have them all in place. I'm learning all the time, and what I thought was correct last year might not be correct this - for example, I recently found out that Times New Roman was designed for column-based texts and is a strain on the eyes over a long period of reading. Therefore I'm changing all the fonts into Garamond, which is commonly used in paperbacks. Of course, changing everything into Garamond means all the headers and footers are thrown off. Cue lots of wasted time ...

So the next thing you need to look forward to is the release of Tube Riders: Exile. I will post a definite release date once I have one.

Until then ...

Chris Ward
June 12th 2013

Wednesday 5 June 2013

The Tube Riders: Revenge early teaser snippet

Yeah, so I know Exile isn't even out yet, but it's coming ... in the meantime I've already started working on Tube Riders: Revenge, way ahead of schedule. And I'm getting a little arty with it so far. Here' s a very short teaser snippet. I wrote this yesterday.

(no spoilers, don't worry - not even any names)

"The mirror had probably never been whole. It was simply a patchwork of other mirrors glued together to function as one. It was difficult to look into it without constantly shifting your head, searching for a fuller view, one that did not, could not exist.

Rather like my life, she thought. Comprised of fragments. Hundreds of fragments all glued together, pretending to be one."