What are the rules and beliefs that knit a society together?
What are the commonalities that enable people of different social status’ to successfully coexist with one another, even when stacked in tightly like wheat, one atop the other, and knotted irrevocably into place like rows of wool, that ultimately serve to both shape and create a functioning whole.
Would the continued existence of such a society, even 150 years after it began, be viewed as being purely the result of its creator’s wisdom, or would the dedication shown by those few who continue to serve to maintain the social order of such a society be entitled to take some of the credit?
What if those dedicated few had made up some new rules of their own?
Rules that proved themselves to be useful, even though being somewhat contradictory in nature, to the original design?
What would happen if the unspoken beliefs that once encouraged people to follow the rules were being slowly eroded away by the contradictions contained within them?
Would such a society begin to fray and unravel?
How could such a gradual disintegration of faith ever be stopped?
And if it weren’t stopped, would each row, or strata of society, simply take it’s turn at falling away, to the detriment of those above them?
If so, how far would those above them go, to retain order?
Hugh Howey’s post-apocalyptic novel ,‘Wool’, examines the way in which society uses the construct of religion both to underpin and play on, our collective notions of duty and sense of obligation to ensure the survival of future generations, regardless of the current costs to ourselves .
Through the voices of 3 strong female characters, who each take their turn at questioning the way of things, Howey exposes how those in power, manipulate religious thought, in order to ensure that whatever rules they decree to be necessary, are taken on board by the masses willingly.
No matter how contradictory such decrees may be when examined more deeply.
Such is life for the inhabitants of silo 18.
A collective of people all living their lives within a silo that burrows its way down 140 floors deep beneath the earth, built just before some long ago catastrophe had rendered the earth’s surface uninhabitable .
Just what catastrophe had taken place and why, remains a mystery to many within the silo as they’ve been there so long that many of them hold no memory of the why’s and wherefores of how the silo came to be.
This is the very mystery that Howey’s characters set out to solve as they try to discover the truth or their existence, each challenging in their own ways, the precepts of their beliefs about their world, and the rules within it, to which they’ve grown accustom.
“The silo was something [they’d] always taken for granted. The priests said it had always been here, that it was lovingly created by a caring God that everything they would ever need had been provided.”
Yet if this were truly so, then why do so many of its inhabitants dream of once again being able to live a life in the outside world, free of the restrictions of the silo?
Why do so many of them cling to the “broken fragments, unearthed in each of their sleeping minds that suggests: we weren’t supposed to live like this”?
Why is it considered an act of treason for anyone to even so much as utter a single word about the outside world, when the silo has several external cameras attached to its roof, that continually show its inhabitants the outside world, with all of its sunrises, sunsets, and sand storms that require each camera’s lens to be cleaned on a regular basis, if speaking of the outside world is deemed a crime?
The act of “cleaning “the camera’s, even though it carries with it an automatic death sentence, as no one ever survives the toxic surface long enough to make it back inside the silo safely, is revered as being both “the highest law and the deepest religion” of the silo’s inhabitants.
Despite this, it is only ever those who have been deemed criminals due to one form of transgression or another, that are ever sent outside to perform this most holy of duties.
Slowly a revolution of thought begins as many begin to observe the truth that:
“Breaking the rules means we.. die… obeying them means we all suffer”.
And still others begin to wonder:
“What God would make so much rock below and air above and just a…measly silo” below?
What kind of God indeed?
And why are people being held within a metal contraption that was designed to safely store excess seed as a buffer against future bad crops?
Even good seeds, when stored away for too long a time, will eventually become thick with mould and rot.
But people aren’t seeds and before long the idea of mutiny hangs darkly in the air, as long-held truths begin to be exposed to the light of doubt and some of the inhabitants of the silo begin to take action.
But have they awoken to the truth of their situation far too late to change their fate?
Is their awakening the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning for the people in silo 18?
Find out in Hugh Howey’s next book in the series “Shift”.