Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

WhistlingThis book was a charming combination of The Secret Life of BeesThe Help, and a bit of To Kill a Mockingbird thrown in for good measure – along with a quality all it’s own.

Starla is a precocious 9-yr. old with an innate sense of fairness, who is willing to stand up and defend people against injustice. She has a very clear, black-and-white definition of what’s right and wrong. This can be a difficult worldview at any time, but particularly when set in the middle of the South during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.

According to her strict grandmother, Mamie, this quality leads her to have a serious case of “sassy mouth.” Because of Starla’s propensity to call things how she sees them, she’s constantly getting into trouble and put on “restriction.” After just such an event, Starla finds herself stuck at home for the best day of Summer, the Fourth of July.

Despite being grounded, the temptation is too great for Starla. She decides to sneak out and participate in the festivities, a decision that causes a chain of events both life-threatening and heart-warming.

After running away from home, she decides to head to Nashville where her Momma lives. She has dreams of having a whole family again, one where her parents will be together and she won’t have to live with Mamie. Along the way, she’s picked up by a black woman named Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. They wind up making a harrowing journey through dangerous circumstances, and in the process learn about strength, trust, and love.

This book was a quick and pleasant read. Our heroine is plucky and full of moxie. Even after experiencing the ugliest side of human nature first-hand, she manages to retain a sense of buoyancy and hope. In the end, she discovers that love is color-blind, family is made up of the people you can count on, and there is a place in the world where she can truly be accepted and belong.

The Hurricane by Hugh Howey

Hurricane is about a boy growing up and experiencing adolescence, that most ungainly of stages, during a time where everything is digitally connected, displayed and disseminated by your peers (and seemingly the world) online.

The beginning of Hurricane was uncomfortable for me to read. It had me thinking back to my teenaged years and those crazy, awkward feelings that come with trying to figure out who you are and where you fit into the world around you.

In some ways, it’s easier if you just subscribe to whatever genre or clique you want to hang out with. However, if none of those quite fit (as was the case for me) then you find yourself sort of wandering between groups and feeling on the outside of all of them. If you’re lucky, you’ll have at least one or two friends to help you navigate the dangerous channels. However, it’s a tenuous and precarious situation with plenty of hidden rocks lying beneath the surface. There are more than enough moments that can leave you feeling lost and alone.

As someone who is a bit older, I went through this period of my life with nothing more instant than a disposable camera to mark my passing. We didn’t have cell phones with cameras that could automatically upload to Facebook. We didn’t have webcams and texting or sites like Chatroulette. I graduated in 1995. We were just starting to understand what a website was and all that the internet could do. (<—Seriously, check out this link. It’s pretty amazing how accurate their predictions are!)

So, imagine what it is like for kids these days where their most awkward and embarrassing moments can be captured and displayed in an instant, and live on forever in perpetuity. That’s one challenge I absolutely do not envy this generation. The problem is compounded by the fact that a lot of kids are still developing their moral compass and sense of empathy. It’s all too easy to put a kid who doesn’t quite fit in down in front of everybody else. Poor Daniel is just such a kid and there is one scene in particular towards the beginning of the book that I cringe just thinking about.

As if life wasn’t being difficult enough for Daniel, he finds he’s living right in the path of the next big hurricane. All of a sudden, the nature around him starts to reflect his inner struggles and turmoil. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s a funny thing about Mother Nature. She’s so mighty that you can’t help but be in awe of her. She has a way of making your everyday problems feel small and insignificant. She demands perspective, and sometimes a fresh start; which happens to be exactly what Daniel needs.

Daniel and his family are cut off from the outside world in the aftermath of the hurricane. As they emerge from their bathroom, they discover a place that has been leveled. There’s no power, the roof on their house has been damaged and the neighborhood looks like a bomb went off.

In the following days, Daniel helps to right the destruction around him. He meets his neighbors, helps fix the house, and works to heal wounded family relations. He begins to see that his contributions have value. That he has family that loves him and there is a place where he belongs.

This is a coming of age book about a boy struggling to figure out where he fits in and define his own purpose. He learns that he can make a difference and be empowered to contribute to his family and society. Not the amorphous society of the internet, but the real and tangible community around him.

This is also a book about how all the technology in the world can’t connect us if we don’t have our own sense of humanity. How many friends you have on Facebook, how many followers you have on your blog, what your Klout score is…it all doesn’t matter if you can’t see what’s important right in front of you.

Hugh Howey does a remarkable job creating a metaphor between technology, the feeling of being connected without ever knowing our neighbor, a teenager’s stormy coming of age and the actual nature and aftermath of a hurricane.

His prose and quality of writing is, as always, a beautiful illustration of how lovely our language can be. Just to give you an example, one phrase in particular stood out to me. When describing Daniel’s sister texting at the breakfast table, he wrote, “Her thumbs were like feet on a duck, paddling madly while the rest of her hovered serenely above.”

This isn’t a book you read for it’s action and adventure. In fact, the pace is rather sedate and calm, which may be surprising given the book’s title. This book unfurls like the first green shoot rising up from the ashes of a destructive fire. It is the hope and growth that slowly comes to replace the ravages of a storm. It is the way a boy finds his center and sense of purpose and, in doing so, takes his first steps into the role of becoming a man.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Before I start reviewing this book, I have a confession to make. I started out really biased against this book. I first heard about this title while sitting in a theater and watching the trailer for the movie that is coming out based on the book.

My initial impression was that someone must have chosen randomly drawn topics out of a (top)hat and decided to write a novel about it.

The fact that it was based around Abraham Lincoln made me feel even worse about it. Abraham Lincoln! A vampire hunter?! It just felt so irreverant and disrespectful towards such a wonderful man. A man who had done so much to contribute to our way of life in this country.

I thought, surely he must be rolling in his grave at this very moment. Needless to say, I had no intention of reading the book OR watching the movie.

Then, one day, I was talking to my local barista. (I have a Starbucks habit that keeps them in business and their stockholders happy.) He happened to mention that he had just finished the Hunger Games trilogy.

I didn’t know he was a reader, so when I found out, I recommended the Molly Fyde series by Hugh Howey as a follow-up. Especially if he was looking for something somewhat similar and equally satisfying.

While he seemed happy to take my recommendation, he mentioned that he’d already started another book, which just happened to be Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

I’ll admit, my first thought was one of disdain. It’s not something that I’m proud of, but I find that I can be a bit of a book snob. Not openly, of course! I was polite. However, my inner nose turned up a bit at the mention.

So, I just smiled and nodded, grabbed my coffee and went on my way.

Well, the very next day, Hugh Howey (the very same author that I had been recommending to my barista friend) posted a link to Enphy’s blog review of his Wool book. I happily followed the link and found that we had both been equally impressed with Howey’s book.

This made me want to see what else he had read recently, and wouldn’t you know it? Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was the most recent review. Not only that, but it was pretty positive.

Now I’m thinking I might have to check it out, because it’s already been established that we have similar taste in books. So, I started toying around with the idea of reading it. However, I wasn’t wholly convinced.

Later that week, I came back from another one of my coffee jaunts, and happened to mention to my co-worker that my barista recommended this book (as a continuation of our previous conversation.)

Now, my co-worker and I don’t have a lot in common, but the one thing we DO have in common is we’re both readers and tend to gravitate towards the same kind of books. In fact, it was he that referred me to both the Hunger Games trilogy last year and Ready Player One. In turn, I recommended Wool to him (which he loved.)
As I’m telling him about my follow-up conversation with my barista he says, “Oh yeah, actually, that book was pretty good.”

That was it, I made up my mind right then to read it, keep an open mind, and decide for myself what I thought of it.

Almost despite myself, I found that I was captivated by the storyline. The introduction takes on the tone that this is a real accounting of events by the author. Similar to the tactic used in the Blair Witch Project.

(Do you remember that movie? The whole lead up to the premier of that movie they tried to get everybody to believe the video was real footage taken by a couple of kids in the woods and was “discovered.” I think it was the first time that method was used to promote a movie.)

The history of Abraham Lincoln, and that entire time period, is so interesting on it’s own, that the underlying vampire theme actually seemed superfluous at times. That being said, the author did a remarkable job weaving the two worlds (both real and fanciful) together.

In fact, the amount of research and historical knowledge was so impressive that I found myself thinking, “Wow! I didn’t know that!” on more than one occassion. It inspired me to do a bit of fact checking and searching on my own; whether it was to verify something, or just because my own curiosity was spurred to learn more.

(Slight spoiler ahead; although I don’t think it really counts as one, since we all know how Lincoln dies.)

For example, one of the things I didn’t know was that the body guard, John F. Parker, hadn’t even been at his post the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Amazingly, he had left his chair to find a better seat in which to watch the play.

Not only that, but he left the theater entirely during intermission and had actually gone over to the saloon next door to have a few drinks. No one knows for sure if he even returned for the second act! However, it is very clear, he was not sitting on his chair and guarding the hallway at the time Boothe went to assassinate the president.

I thought this seemed so remarkable; surely the author was embellishing the story! So, I looked it up, and read an article on the the Smithsonian’s website that confirmed it was true! Can you believe it?!

Nowadays with how strict our security is surrounding the President, it seems almost preposterous that only one, drunkard guy would be in charge of Lincoln’s safety. I don’t know, maybe that’s just illustrating my own deficiency in history.

What I thought was brilliant is how Grahame-Smith weaves our nation’s history of slavery and vampires together. The outcome of this struggle would decide the fate of our country and whether or not all of us (not just slaves) would be allowed to be free, independent humans- or a country of livestock for our vampire owners.

Another thing I liked was that the vampires in this book were not the stereotypical, over-sexualized creatures that we’ve all come to expect. These were as varied as the humans they fed upon, but not romanticized in the usual fashion.

Overall, the story that Grahame-Smith puts together is a quick, entertaining read. In the end, I couldn’t help thinking- like a spoonful of sugar- if vampires can cause people to access more history, then I look forward to another installment!

George Washington the Werewolf, perhaps?

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Before I truly get started on my review of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, I should mention a few things. First off, I was struck in awe and wonderment at being able to read the works of such a master wordsmith. Neil Gaiman is a craftsman when it comes to words. His prose, while not overly flowery, has a depth of emotion and poetry that is a joy to read.

Secondly, I benefitted greatly from a website that compiled and explained the mythology behind various gods and characters. If you decide to read this book, may I highly recommend bookmarking and referencing “Only The Gods Are Real?”

Trust me when I say you will appreciate the way Gaiman weaves metaphor and mythology so much MORE when you understand the stories he’s drawing from. The way he describes the gods and the situations he places them in is nothing short of brilliant.

American Gods is a really large elephant of a book. It’s been a few days since I’ve finished reading this novel, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of the various concepts and layers. When I focus on one aspect of the book, the others seem to fade out of reach in my mind.

They’re still there, but slightly out of view. Then, as I shift my attention to another angle of the story, the original thought recedes and goes out of focus. I realize that they’re all connected and inter-related, but being able to explain precisely how it all fits is a challenge that seems beyond my scope and ability. In the end, I’ve been left with a sense of enormity and magnificence, while still not managing to see the whole beast at once.

So, then, let’s look at the components separately, instead.

American Gods is a story about a man named Shadow Moon.

Shadow Moon is a man who was sentenced to six years in jail and is due to be released early for good behavior after only serving three of them. A few days before he’s to be freed, his life is shattered when he finds out that his wife has died in a car crash.

On his way home, to attend his wife’s funeral, he meets a man named Mr. Wednesday. Mr. Wednesday wants to hire him on as his bodyguard and all around errand boy. Originally, Shadow declines the offer, but Mr. Wednesday is insistent and eventually Shadow acquiesces- with a few stipulations.

From the very beginning, Shadow can tell that things are not all as they seem. At first, he’s reluctantly sucked into the events that unfold, but as things progress he becomes more willingly engaged. He comes to understand that there is a storm coming. There will be a great battle between old and new gods, and that Mr. Wednesday, who is really Odin in disguise, is at the heart of the events unfolding.

Much like the skin of an elephant, this is perhaps the easiest aspect of the story to identify. It is roughened by age and elements and yet still manages to be intriguing and comforting. Even if all you wanted to do was read this book on the surface level, it would be an entertaining and pleasant read.

American Gods is a story about the struggle between old and new.

Odin is the greatest Norse God, otherwise known as the All-Father. Immigrants brought the old gods from all over the world to America in their hearts and minds. Gods have come from China, Greece, India, Ireland, Egypt, and anywhere there were people who prayed and kept faith in a higher being.

Slaves, paupers, peasants all brought them oversea and across land on their backs and then tethered them within America’s borders through sacrifice and worship. As the people who believed in them stopped believing, or teaching the new generations, or as they began to die off, the power of the old gods faded.

The old gods were left to fend for themselves and take what little bit they could from the mythology and stories that remained. They had to resort to lying, cheating, whoring and preying on the people as best they could for their existence.

Their diminished power made way for new gods. The gods of credit cards and freeways, television and computers, internet and media, modernization and progress.

What the new gods have not realized (or maybe they suspect and fear it’s truth) is that everything is impermanent and their very existence is still inherently based off the belief that people instill in them.

As time moves forward, they will find themselves in a similar situation as the old gods. The lingo may be different, but the function is the same. The new gods fear that there isn’t enough room in the people’s hearts and minds for all of them, and so want to kill off the old gods.

American Gods is a story about religion and the role of gods in our society.

Gaiman delves into the roles that religion has played in all cultures around the world. At one point in the book, Mr. Wednesday says, “There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right.”

How can anybody say this isn’t relevant to today’s geopolitical situation? With so much unrest in the Middle East and the blooming of the Arab Spring? With Iran rushing to gain nuclear capabilities and threatening to wipe Israel off the map; Israel threatening to train their weapons on Iran in retaliation. With the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Sudan and the Darfur?

Hasn’t it always been the same throughout our history? These are relatively recent examples, but at any point in mankind’s past, there is a religion being used as an excuse to wage war and commit murder on masses of people who are different and equally- fervently- calling themselves “right.”

Throughout humanity, gods have been thought of as, “a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms…a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition.”

The vehicle used to express the idea of God (or gods) is through religion. Religions are, by definition, a metaphor. They are a means to relate the story and concept. At one point in the book religion is described as an operating system.

However, if you were to boil any religion down to its base, you’d be left with the concept that, in essence, gods are ideas. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, it’s true, but they can be killed and, therefore, it is possible to kill a god.

America may not be a good land for gods, but there may be something even more than the gods. Something behind the curtain of the curtain, as it were, that is even harder to kill off. Perhaps it is the very land itself; which is much older and wiser than any god mankind has created. It sustains and nourishes us and everything has it’s own natural place.

In the end, the land, itself, is the church. The land, itself, is the religion.

American Gods is a story about the American identity.

When Gaiman wrote this book, he’d been living in America for a few years and was trying to come to an understanding about our country’s sense of identity. In his search, he takes the reader from Chicago to San Francisco to the smallest towns via back roads and kitschy tourist attractions. He addresses his findings and musing throughout the book and makes some very astute observations. Not exactly as a stranger, but not quite as an insider, either.

At one point Mr. Wednesday mentions, “This is the only country in the world that worries about what it is.” Which, in my own limited experience, is exactly true. Throughout our history we’ve fretted over the influx of a particular demographic. Long ago, it was the Irish, then the Chinese. We’ve fought ourselves bloody over slavery and civil rights and interned our Japanese. A more modern example may be the laws recently passed in Arizona, primarily focusing on Hispanics.

Each era, we have questioned ourselves and what it means to be American. The ones who have been here longer wrap themselves in the flag and gorge themselves on apple pie, all the while tucking away their own immigrant ancestors. The fact is, nobody is American. Not originally. And, that is entirely the point.

Despite our disparate pasts, cultures, languages and religions, how do we manage to make this country (that doesn’t seem like it should work) function and persist? Even as we question our heritage, our language, our “American-ness” we have some undefined quality that makes us distinguishable from any other country.

I think part of that identity comes from the fact that we do constantly question ourselves. We have a history of self-reflection and continually look in the mirror and ask, “Who are we?”

American Gods is a story about an elephant. 

Have you ever heard the story of the seven blind men in a room with an elephant? They are all asked to touch some part of the elephant and then to describe what it looks like.

The first blind man touches the elephant’s leg and says, “An elephant is like a pillar.”

The second blind man touches the elephant’s tail and says, “No, an elephant is like a snake.”

A third blind man touches the elephant’s trunk and says, “No, it’s like a tree branch.”

The fourth blind man touches the elephant’s ear and says, “An elephant is like a hand fan.”

And so on, down the line, each blind man grabs hold of a part of the elephant and declares what it is.

In the end, they were all right, and yet…they were all wrong, as well. The fact was, the elephant was too large of a concept for any one man to grasp wholly. Some things are just larger than us and not meant to be fully understood.

To fight over things we can’t possibly know, such as what the exact parameters are in order to be defined as “American,” or over the will of God and the rules of higher beings, is an exercise in futility, ignorance and arrogance. Such is the impression I’m left with after reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman.


At the risk of mixing metaphors, or adding to this already bloated review, I’ll leave you with one final quote from the book that I hope will help illuminate what I think is the essence of this book.

“One describes a tale best by telling the tale. You see? The way one describes a story, to oneself or the world, is by telling the story. It is a balancing act and it is a dream. The more accurate the map, the more it resembles the territory. The most accurate map possible would be the territory, and thus would be perfectly accurate and perfectly useless. The tale is the map that is the territory. You must remember this.” – The Notebooks of Mr. Ibis.

This review is my version of a map. I tried to make it as accurate as possible, but in the end it is incomplete and inaccurate- as all maps must be- in describing this book. The best thing that anyone can do would be to just read the novel and find themselves as enchanted as I was with the landscape of Gaiman’s world.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This book combines The Amazing Race, the golden ticket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and the virtual world found in the book Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson. Definitely one of the best books I read in 2011!

It’s 2044 and the world has become a dark and destitute place. The people are saved from having to slog through their dismal reality by the invention of a virtual world called OASIS. Jacking into OASIS allows you to become a part of a digital universe with limitless possibilities. However, the amount of access you have depends on the money you’re able to spend for gear and the quality of your connection.

Virtual worlds are only as utopic as the people within them, and humans have a tendency towards power plays. In this setting, the power is through the internet connections and ability to manipulate OASIS once there. There is one company, in particular, who is close to monopolizing all the connections, and would like nothing better than to own OASIS for themselves.

However, James Halliday, the founder of OASIS, wanted his world to be accessible to everybody. As he lays dying, he sees the imminent power struggle on the horizon and knows he will not be around to stop it. So, he comes up with a plan. He will make the world’s largest scavenger hunt and set up clues and puzzles throughout OASIS.

The person who solves them first will be the new and invincible leader of OASIS. They will be the keeper of the key, to be used positively or negatively. Wade, our protaganist, is a poor kid with a long shot. His imagination is sparked by the possibility that anybody could win this race and he sets off to do the impossible, be the first to solve the scavenger hunt.

Even as the years pass, and the rest of the world’s interest wanes, Wade carries on with his research, until one day he comes across the solution to the first puzzle and re-ignites the fervor once again. So sets up the race between good and evil. A struggle to be the first person to find the prize that will unlock unlimited power, in both real and virtual worlds.

Anybody who grew up in the 80s and remembers the music, movies, tv shows and old video games fondly will enjoy this book. It brought back nostalgia of playing Space Invaders on the Atari and the excitement I felt the morning I received my first Nintendo.

Despite the 80s trivia, there are a lot of themes in the book that relate to concepts our society is grappling with now. Most notably, it addressed issues in regards to net neutrality and open source coding, the ability to control the flow of information and education, how we interact with each other virtually and in reality, and what constitutes a relationship and friendship.

It also acknowledged the complications in how we define ourselves and the concept of self-identity in a real and virtual world. How, sometimes, it’s easier to relate to our handle and online persona than to our actual self.

If you are familiar with online games such as Everquest and World of Warcraft or if you’ve ever kept a blog or interacted with Facebook and social media, you will recognize the world of OASIS. Don’t get me wrong, OASIS was not a regurgitation of those worlds. Rather it was the next horizon of what will become possible.

It was especially refreshing how OASIS was integrated into more productive aspects of everyday life, particularly when it came to education and public learning. I loved the ideas introduced with online classroom learning and being able to fully engage students into a subject. Could we be looking at a solution to our underfunded public schools and a new frontier for educating our society?

Evidence suggests that this would be the case. I recently came across an article that talks about the new role of technology in our classroom and how it’s being used to connect and inspire students to their lesson material. Months after reading this book, I’m still left thinking about these ideas.

That, alone, should convince you read this book!

Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue (The Bern Saga #1) by Hugh Howey

There were a couple of reasons I decided to pick this series up. First off, I just recently finished Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus #1-5 and was absolutely impressed with the level of detail and quality of writing that went into that piece of work. I wanted to see what else he had written.

Coincidentally, I’ve also been on the lookout for a great series I could sink my teeth into. I’ve had the frustration of starting a number of trilogies lately that only have one or two books published. While I can appreciate the effort it takes to produce a good book, and the marketing reasons for delaying new releases, I have been left disappointed with the fact that I now have a number of incomplete storylines and their corresponding questions floating around in my head. I was tired of not getting the payoff in the end. What I needed was a series that was fully completed and published!

To top it off, I was also scouting for a new series that I could recommend to my sister. I had recently convinced her to read the Hunger Games trilogy and she absolutely loved it. She’s going to be having about a week of free time on her hands soon, and asked me to find another series that would be just as satisfying. Her requests were for quality writing, a strong female character, adventure, and maybe a little romance. She didn’t want anything too depressing or dark.

Luckily, Hugh Howey’s Bern Series fulfilled all of these requirements and then some!

This book grabs you from the very beginning. The action sequences are well written and the dialogue is seamless. I found myself emotionally invested in the characters, what motivated them, and their struggles. I think the author did a very good job of portraying that stage in life as an older teen. Things are are fresh, and still awkward, and yet…you’re able to ascertain their character and the type of people they will become.

Molly Fyde is a strong, intelligent, vulnerable protagonist who has an inner strength she has not fully discovered yet. She has the courage to stand up in a male dominated profession and excel at it. Although she’s fighting against the inequality of a sexist system, I love the fact that Molly is a typical girl in so many ways. She’s unsure of herself when it comes to the boy she likes and she worries about what to wear when meeting him for the first time after being away for awhile. Yet, when the chips are down, she’s capable of handling herself and isn’t afraid of making tough decisions.

Cole is intelligent, caring and protective. While he has a little bit more life experience than Molly, and isn’t quite as naive, you can tell he’s also on the cusp of full manhood. In this first book, it’s fun to watch these two characters orbit each other as they grapple with themselves and their newfound emotions.

The amount of creativity that was in this book was breathtaking. I’m a fan of post-apocalyptic, dystopic and science fiction novels. Most of the time, when I’m reading these genres, half the fun is being able to immerse myself in a new, or different world. A lot of that enjoyment is contingent on how well the author can describe and illustrate that alternate reality through the pages. After reading (and being a fan of) Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus, I was already going into this series with high expectations. Yet, despite my inflated confidence, I was still pleasantly surprised about how much he was able to impress and amaze me.

He was able to project a future Earth setting; including the myriad ways it would be altered with the event of space travel, discovery of new worlds and various political changes. He also produced the same level of creativity for multiple alien worlds. Each one having their own unique flavor, look, cultures, lingo, etc.

This type of success really hinges on the details. Weather patterns, curse words, different philosophies, the various ways to imprison a person… it’s all accounted for in this book. I also appreciated the amount of thought that was put into the technical side of things; such as some of the challenges of hyperspace, for instance. Or, what a lagrange point is (thanks Wikipedia!) The sum of all these elements became a world that was at once familiar and unknown. It provided just enough to be recognizable and relatable while still launching the reader across the galaxy.

As an aside, I especially loved the Glemots’ way of speaking. Just to give you a taste, here’s a quote from the book just as Molly is meeting them for the first time: “A unit of your companions is ambulating within five hundred meters of your location. Do you desire for this range of proximity to decrease?” How awesome is that? It’s like Spock on steroids!

All I can say is that you absolutely can’t go wrong by reading this book. Plus, the fact that the series is fully published guarantees you’ll be hitting the kindle store for book two faster than hyperspace after reading the cliffhanger of a final sentence.

Wool Omnibus Edition (#1-5) by Hugh Howey

Words can’t describe how incredible this book is! This is easily the best book I’ve read so far this year, and I average about two books per week. Although this was originally a series of short stories, the author does a great job of creating a seamless storyline throughout.

I loved the character development in these stories. The people lead whole and fulfilling lives, experience an honest range of emotions (both good and bad,) closely guard secrets in their hearts, and constantly struggle for existence, to make sense of things, to achieve…despite living in a world comprised of only 140 floors.

The world that Hugh Howey has constructed is so vast and rich, it’s hard to remember that it’s mainly set into the curved walls of a silo. All the systems required to have a functioning society; food production, IT, education, systems maintenance, rules on reproduction, and waste disposal, have been carefully planned out and accounted for. More importantly, the things that flesh out a society; taboos, religion, fears and hopes, the sound of children laughing are also painstakingly crafted by his words.

The silo itself becomes a character. I love how Howey incorporates the stairs into the story. They become a test of will, a graceful arc of hope, or potential for despair. Not only is it the tie that connects the levels together, but it’s also the gravity that keeps them apart. A barrier and a link. The very DNA of the silo’s civilization.

Just when you think this lovely combination of world-building AND character development couldn’t get better, there’s the writing. I especially liked how the artist masterfully weaved the metaphor of his title throughout the story. It was the element that could be crafted into a sweater that warms, but just as easily unraveled- like a lie. It’s the truth being uncovered when the wool is pulled from one’s eyes.

Overall, I can’t speak highly enough of this collection of short stories. At the end of the Kindle Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool #1-5) there is an interview with the author. He mentions that there will be more stories told in this world; I’m looking forward to reading all of them!