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A Review of Wool: Casting Off by Hugh Howey
In Casting Off, Hugh Howey continues both the story and the metaphors which began in Wool. And, yes, dear readers and fans of Howey, this book is just as engrossing as the first two. Howey maintains continuity from Wool by opening with another “cleaning.” Just as in the first book, which opened with the Sheriff waiting for his cleaning, a new Sheriff now awaits the same fate. This Sheriff is Juliette “Jules” Nichols, assigned by Mayor Jahns and Deputy Marnes at the end of Proper Gauge. Now we see her facing the same excursion in the toxic outside world to clean the lens on the only camera to the world at large. Questions immediately pop into our mind. Why is she repeating the journey of the previous Sheriff? Is this going to be another series of all flashbacks into what lead her to this dismal destiny? Are we really going to move forward in the story line?
Flashing back was inevitable, but we learn the journey from Sheriff to cleaner has only taken Jules a few days. During that short time, Jules tried to learn how to be the silo sheriff. It’s a self-tutorial that leads her to extended hours of reading case files and staring at the jail’s camera of the outside world. Jules is much more of a pragmatist than many of the other people in the silo. Where they look up, above ground hoping to one day return to the outside, Jules sees their hope as “sad and empty dreams” where gray dust constantly molests gray hills and there hasn’t been life in hundreds of years. Jules knows that “the future was below,” safe in a silo which needs repairs. Below is her world and she is the ultimate mechanic of its social intrigues. Jules must solve the problems that rise up from the deep, one of which is Mayor Jahns’ murder.
Mayor Jahns’ last words to Jules were, “People were like machines. They broke down…Her job was to not only figure out why this happened, and who was to blame, but also to listen for the signs of it coming.” Deputy Marnes is one of those broken people in the Silo 17. He loved Mayor Jahns more than he ever let her know… until it was too late. Now his mourning casts a shadow over the sheriff’s office, just as the people’s mourning casts a shadow over the silo. The silo needs a new Mayor to go along with its new Sheriff and it seems that it will be the blind leading the blind. Both will have to learn as they go. Jules reads the Law portion of the all-important Pact, which is supposed to keep the silo a smooth-running machine. Yet she has unsolved murders, civil disruptions and the distasteful Head of IT, Bernard Holland, who claims the right to serve as interim mayor until elections can be held.
Jules is up to the challenge! She takes up the challenge and searches records, talks to people and narrows in on some of the secrets of Silo 17. During that time, she meets Lukas, a star gazer and an artist who becomes attached to Jules. Her friends in the down-deep of the silo send her words of encouragement and Walker, an old eccentric electrician, sends her a mysterious note saying, “The truth is a joke.”
Jules takes that final walk through the airlock to the outside world, where she is the first – SPOILER ALERT! – cleaner to make it over the hill and out of sight of the camera. You’ll be surprised by more of the silo’s secrets, which Walker knows and uses to help her.
I share this spoiler with you for two reasons: 1) it marches us up the hill with Jules and into the next book, The Unraveling, and 2) because we don’t read simply to get the facts. We are drawn into stories by good storytellers, and that is exactly what Hugh Howey is: a good storyteller. He takes devious political plots mixes them with murderous schemes on a grand scale, then seasons them with vivid, yet simple, details told with real human emotions. These details are Hugh Howey’s strength. They are what allow him to build a convincing contained world underground. He pulls us into the world of Silo 17 with descriptions and nuances that, once tasted, make us want more.
I, for one, am continuing to read this intriguing and well-written series. My only regret is that I didn’t get this review finishes back in December 2014 after I finished the novel. Now I’ve not only read all the Wool novels, I’m reading the Shift Omnibus and STILL loving the read!
For more reviews by Rhodes, go to www.mustreadmustsee.blogspot.com