Wool by Hugh Howey (2012)
Despite being a die-hard science fiction fan in my younger days, I rarely venture into the genre now. But I found my sister-in-law's description of Wool intriguing enough to request it from our library. And it is an intriguing story. Or, rather, set of stories, as this was an omnibus collection of Wool, Wool 2, Wool 3, Wool 4, and Wool 5. The 532 pages slipped by quickly, though I was surprised at how dissatisfied I was. The premise is good, the characters interesting, the plot twists satisfying, and as far as I can tell the author writes well. The ending did not disappoint. So why the dissatisfaction?
Perhaps because it was just a bit too gritty for me. I enjoyed the first book most, and thought that perhaps our oldest grandchild might like it. But it seems as if the author's critics told him after each book that he needed more profanity, gore, and action scenes. True, it all fits into the story, but made it much less pleasant to read. (Though it did remind me of one reason I prefer books to movies—it's a lot easier to skim through the fighting.)
My dislike of violence and profanity does not mean I like insipid books. I've read plenty of squeaky-clean books that left me feeling as dissatisfied as Wool. I prefer a book, like The Lord of the Rings (NOT the movie) where the paragraphs are a delight to read and the complexity and depth stand up to multiple re-readings.
I believe my dissatisfaction came because my strongest and most important criterion for enjoyment of a book, play, movie, or television show is whether or not the experience leaves me wanting to be a better person. It doesn't have to be super-spiritual, but I want to be inspired to be kinder, to be more clever, to make our home more inviting, or even just to run a little faster—but to be better in some way. Wool left me feeling that I had read an interesting tale, but nothing more.
The ending cleverly left room for many more books in the same setting, and there are at least four more available, though not at our library. If, someday, the library chooses to add them, and if I'm in the mood for something merely relaxing, I may return to the story: there are a few characters I'd like to follow further....