Friday, July 13, 2012

A Bit of a Retraction

Despite what I wrote earlier about the first line of Wool (here) the five books that I read that formed the Omnibus edition made the story "in toto" really quite good. In fact, I remember dissing Wool and saying Hugh Howey weren't no Vernor Vinge. Well, by book five Hugh Howey came pert near damn close to Vernor Vinge-esque-ness.

I'm glad I made this a "commitment book" by reading the Omnibus edition. I think it would have been maddening to read each in turn. Kind of like waiting for each successive book in the Song of Ice and Fire series to come out. But reading them together, and they do read like a continuous story, made the entire story more worthwhile and fun to read.

I did take a note or two and avid readers of the blog will already know that I posted this description of the morning as a part of my writing about the morning series and my frist line. Beyond those I offer these:

This first note I highlight illustrated a perfect example of providing a setting without hitting the reader over the head.

Each step was slightly bowed from generations of traffic, the edge rounded down like a pouting lip. In the center, there was almost no trace of the small diamonds that once gave the treads their grip. Their absence could only be inferred by the pattern to either side, the small pyramidal bumps rising from the flat steel with their crisp edges and flecks of paint. Holston lifted an old boot to an old step, pressed down, and did it again. 

He lost himself in what the untold years had done, the ablation of molecules and lives, layers and layers ground to fine dust. And he thought, not for the first time, that neither life nor staircase had been meant for such an existence. The tight confines of that long spiral, threading through the buried silo like a straw in a glass, had not been built for such abuse. Like much of their cylindrical home, it seemed to have been made for other purposes, for functions long since forgotten. What was now used as a thoroughfare for thousands of people, moving upand down in repetitious, daily cycles, seemed more apt in Holston’s view to be used only in emergencies and perhaps by dozens.
Another floor went by— a pie-shaped division of dormitories. As Holston ascended the last few levels, the last steps of his life, the sounds of childlike delight rained down even louder from above. This was the laughter of youth, of souls who had not yet come to grips with where they lived, who did not yet feel the press of the earth on all sides, who in their minds were not buried at all, but alive. Alive and unworn, dripping happy sounds down the stairwell, trills that were incongruous with Holston’s actions, his decision and determination to die.

This next note shows the mayor of the silo, an older lady who knits, thinking about her job. I liked the way that the Howey made her thoughts drift back toward knitting.

Jahns lived under the weight of this pressure, a burden brutal on more than knees. She kept quiet as they made their way to the central stairwell. A handful called for her to make a speech, but the lone voices did not gain traction. No chant formed, much to her relief. What would she say? That she didn’t know why it all held together? That she didn’t even understand her own knitting, how if you made knots, and if you did it right, things just worked out? Would she tell them it only took one snip for it all to unravel? One cut, and you could pull and pull and turn that garment into a pile. Did they really expect her to understand, when all she did was follow the rules, and somehow it kept working out, year after year after year?

Then, later, with a different character, he does it again. This time instead of knitting, the character, a mechanic, thinks in terms of stabilizing a machine.

She forced the wavy needle through the breast of her coveralls and clasped the catch on the back. Looking down at the star was a little surreal. There were a dozen folders at her feet demanding her attention, and Juliette felt, for the first time since arriving at the up-top, that this was her job. Her work at Mechanical was behind her. She had left that place in far better condition than she’d found it, had stayed long enough to hear the near-silent hum of a repaired generator, to see a shaft spin in such perfect alignment that one couldn’t tell if it was moving at all. And now she had traveled to the up-top to find here the rattle and squelch and grind of a different set of gears, a misalignment that was eating away at the true engine of the silo, just as Jahns had forewarned.

I like this attention to detail and consistency. How many times have we been occupied with our thoughts and bridged them or the resolution of them over to our day to day lives.

There is a long simile that goes on and on about what the silos are for and how any why humans are housed in them, which is really a focal point of the story. I would have liked to share it but is really just too long for this space. I bring it up because of this:

It turned out some crooked things looked even worse when straightened. Some tangled knots only made sense once unraveled.

This was when the conspiracy was revealed. It tied everything up nicely and even hearkened back to the knitting from book two.

My favorite part about this series though had to be the villain. Right now my company is trying to purge its network and computer systems of a virus. It is not uncommon to hear my co-workers lambasting and cursing IT through the hallways. The villain in this story is one that anyone who has worked with an IT department has dreamed about making a villain, because the villain is the IT department. It made me think that Hugh Howey had some unresolved issues with his own IT group when he wrote this.

The one thing I didn't like as a reader, but I appreciated as a writer was seeing the way the author developed his writing over the course of the series. His first three novels all focused on one character solely. Then by four and five he had a whole cast of characters. I was hoping he would keep the one character mein throughout. Despite this one, itty, bitty, thing, it was a great series to read. Ranked right up there with watching the new BSG and other current, excellent Sci-Fi. Still not quite Vernor Vingian though.