‘Wool’ – If the lies don’t kill you, the truth will. A novel by Hugh Howey

wool howey

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”.

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From Slaughterhouses to Serial Killers

A few days ago I watched a documentary called “Earthlings” (which you can find of a review of here earthlings-a-documentary-not-for-the-faint-hearted/ ) which detailed the disturbingly inhumane ways in which animals in slaughterhouses are being killed for their meat.

The documentary is filled with graphic footage of cattle being shot in the head with bolts, (which don’t actually kill them) and hung upside down on great metal machines by one hoof so that their necks can be more easily sliced open by the slaughter-men, who, if the cattle don’t die quickly enough for their liking, stab them in the heart and then reach in and pull the animals entire trachea out of their bodies, whilst the animals are still alive.

Gasping for air they kick so hard with their legs, even with their trachea’s dangling down, that they actually managed to free themselves of the giant metal machines holding them upside down, only to land on a hard, blood soaked concrete floor and suffer the further harm of being kicked in the head and stabbed multiple times until they finally die.

As I watched this I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of person would choose to work in a place where they torture and kill not just one animal but hundreds of animals, day in day out, week in week out, as if it were nothing?

I also couldn’t help but notice, that without fail, all of the people shown working in jobs that involved active killing were male.

It didn’t even really seem to matter whether the killing was occurring in India, Japan, America, Mexico, Cuba, Australia, Indonesia, Canada, England or even what species of animal was being slaughtered or why.

The workers were all male.

(That’s not to say that there aren’t any females actively working in slaughterhouses, but if there are, they aren’t in the documentary).

This gender anomaly led me to wonder whether or not the lack of women in that kind of work place is a reflection of social and cultural norms towards killing  being seen as “men’s work “ or if males for some reason do genuinely hold a greater propensity toward being attracted to jobs that involve inflicting pain and killing.

I know that I wouldn’t be attracted to doing a job like that even if there were a million dollars waiting for me at the end of every week and I doubt that any of my female friends would even be tempted either.

But here’s the weird thing about it all:

The men working in the slaughterhouses, most of the time, weren’t even getting paid a decent wage, let alone an extravagant one..

So they weren’t doing it for the money.

And most of them were also regularly getting sick due to bacterial contamination from blood and fecal matter.

So, if men are not doing jobs like this because they offer greater money, and are instead actually getting physically ill from doing them, then why are they doing them?

Could it possibly be that some of them actually like it?

With the vision of that documentary clearly still fresh in mind, today I began reading a book called “Predators – killers without a conscience” by Howard and Wilson, which sets out to examine why serial killers kill and  to explore what parts social and/or psychological issues may play in it all

Within reading the first few pages of this book I was instantly struck by two very clear similarities that seem to somehow flow, eerily neatly, between the documentary and the book, even though they are both about very different subject matters.

Firstly there’s a striking similarity between the ways in which the serial killers in the book choose to kill their victims and the ways in which animals in slaughterhouses are killed.

The book quite literally contains page after page of men rendering their victims immobile while stabbing, raping, strangling, mutilating and cutting the throats of not just women but also children and all , so the authors believe, for their own “male sexual gratification”.

Here are just a few examples that almost mirror in places, the acts of violence that were perpetrated against the cattle in the slaughterhouse.

Trigger warning, if you have a sensitivity towards violence please do not read the following quotes.

“She was hog-tied on the ground. I walked around to her left side and I cut her throat two or three times…but she just started thrashing around on the ground. She was trying to scream but nothing was coming out. I kicked her and put my foot on her to keep her still. It didn’t work so I stabbed her in the throat again. I aimed and stabbed at the hard thing (her windpipe) in her neck. I pushed the knife all the way in but she still wouldn’t keep still so I worked out where the heart would be and I stabbed her on the left side of the chest. She still didn’t stop moving so I stabbed her in the chest again. I needed two hands to get through her chest. She kept moving so I kicked her in the head a couple of times. She still kept moving but she was slowing down. I waited.” (Confession of a man who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”).

“He dragged the girl’s dying body…blood still dripping from the wound in her throat…then cut the crotch out of her swimmers and raped her dying body”.(murder and rape of a 15-year-old girl quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”)

“The killer drove her to a secluded area where he sexually abused her, using a knife to inflict horrific injuries on the girl’s body, before disembowelling her while she was still alive.” (murder and rape of a 12-year-old girl quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”).

““The killer tortured and mutilated his body. As his killer sliced away … he died a slow suffocating death. The killer cut the boys throat.” (3-year-old boy, abducted and murdered quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”).

Time and time again the authors report that all pleas for mercy were met with the same callous and cold refusal by the killers to even recognize their victims as human beings.

The second similarity between the documentary and the book is the fact that 99% of all the serial killers, not just mentioned in the book, but also statistically, are indeed male.

In the entire book there are only two women listed and of the two, one was an accomplice to her partners crimes and didn’t kill anyone and the other was an horrendously abused woman herself with clear psychological issues who, unfortunately for her and perhaps because she was already psychologically vulnerable, became romantically entangled with a man who was already a serial killer.

So, as of now, I’ll be staying well and truly clear of anyone who works in a slaughterhouse.

Let me know whether or not you think there may be a valid connection between the two.

Related Reviews

https://vultureculture2016.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/predators-killers-without-a-conscience/

http://www.amazon.com/Predators-Killers-Without-Conscience-Amanda-Howard-ebook/dp/B005PSUOHQ

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0358456/reviews

http://www.nomeatathlete.com/earthlings/

“Predators – killers without a conscience”

-predator-killers-without-a-conscience

In this book, criminologist Dr Paul Wilson and author Amanda Howard attempt to examine whether or not social, economic and cultural factors contribute toward the making of predators rather than dwelling entirely on the psychological aspects which are often later claimed to have been the driving forces behind the actions of those who become sexual predators and serial killers.

In order to do this they review the case files of several notorious sexual predators and serial killers from across the globe.

In the process of doing so, Wilson and Howard detail each and every act of depravity committed upon the victims of the perpetrators they review , in a shockingly graphic way.

“The killer drove her to a secluded area where he sexually abused her, using a knife to inflict horrific injuries on the girl’s body, before disembowelling her while she was still alive.” (murder and rape of a 12-year-old girl quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”).

“He dragged the girl’s dying body…blood still dripping from the wound in her throat…then cut the crotch out of her swimmers and raped her dying body”.(murder and rape of a 15-year-old girl quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”)

As can be seen from the quotes immediately above and below, the vast majority of the contents of this book should be considered carefully as it is not suitable reading for those who are either sensitive toward descriptions of acts of violence or those who are younger than 18.

“She was hog-tied on the ground. I walked around to her left side and I cut her throat two or three times…but she just started thrashing around on the ground. She was trying to scream but nothing was coming out. I kicked her and put my foot on her to keep her still. It didn’t work so I stabbed her in the throat again. I aimed and stabbed at the hard thing (her windpipe) in her neck. I pushed the knife all the way in but she still wouldn’t keep still so I worked out where the heart would be and I stabbed her on the left side of the chest. She still didn’t stop moving so I stabbed her in the chest. I needed two hands to get through her chest. She kept moving so I kicked her in the head a couple of times. She still kept moving but she was slowing down. I waited.” (Confession of a man who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”).

The amount of time that Wilson and Howard spend on detailing the crimes committed, leaves very little space within each chapter for them to focus their attention on actually setting about the task of unpacking just what role, if any, each killers social and demographic circumstances actually played in the committing of their crimes.

To that end, out of the entire 246 page book, it is only in the final chapter, a whole 13 pages, that they at long last set about answering such questions.

Of that only 1 and a half pages are dedicated toward delving into considerations  such as to “How monsters are made” and whether or not predators should be seen as being “ mad or bad?.

In their search for common denominators, Wilson and Howard found only three sustained similarities across the board and none of them were specifically related to socio-economic status or cultural norms.

These denominators were:

  • The fact that all of the predators they reviewed had a long history of engaging in criminal behavior.
  • The fact that the majority of the killers they reviewed were later found to be psychopaths who were focused on fulfilling their “urgent, intense and ongoing desire to physically hurt and violate non-consenting victims,” as opposed to being criminally insane.

This was a point that was made time and time again via the amount of forethought, planning and organization, which the predators engaged in prior to the abduction, rape and torture of each of their victims.

  • Each predator was noted to have held no empathy, what so ever, for their victims. Often treating the act of killing as a necessary step in order to fulfill their desires and viewing the disposal of their bodies as inconvenience to them that had to be dealt with.

Yet the question of whether or not psychopaths are born rather than being created by socio economic circumstances or cultural norms, still remains an unanswered one.

Despite its gruesome content, there was one of the aspects of this book that I, as reader, found as equally disturbing as the descriptions of the acts of violence that were perpetrated against each victim, and that was the violation perpetrated by authors of this book against those who had already been victimized in the worst ways.

With the exception of one victim, whom they simply named “H”, they openly exposed the full names, ages, occupations and locations of not only each and every victim attacked, but also the full names and locations of their family members.

As a reader I can understand their bent for detail when discussing the crimes because each and every aspect of the level of depravity involved argues for the diagnosis of such perpetrator as highly organized psychopaths, but why include the full names of all of the victims?

Why could they not have nominated them, as they did with “H”, simply an initial?

Reading the names of the victims over and over again created within me such a deep sense of sorrow for the victims and wrongness for their families due to the fact that they will forever be marked in print and defined once again by the history of such horrific events.

It must be difficult enough to have a child of any age, taken from you, but to have that loss be so constantly written about, spoken about or relived in the media each every time an anniversary comes around or whenever someone decides to write a book about your family’s tragedy, must be absolutely horrendous.

It also made me ponder whether or not the family members knew all of the details of their loved ones treatment prior to death?

After all Wilson and Howard describe the events of crimes that occurred during the 50’s,60’, 70’s 80’s, all the way up until 2009.

How would any of these parents feel reading this?

How would the siblings feel reading this?

What if the siblings of the murdered had been deliberately spared the details of their brother of sister death, only to discover them in a book like this?

Fans of true crime are sure to enjoy this work, but for me, unfortunately, this book comes across as little more than being just that.

It is a book that presents the remnants of true crimes in a sensationalist manner poorly disguised as an academic work.

My Top Ten Books of 2015

This seems like an absolutely must read list of the best books released
in 2015. Are there any others you’d like to add.

Ajoobacats Blog

Following last year’s formula, I filtered all the books I’d read in 2015 on Goodreads, of which there were 235, I looked exclusively at the books I had awarded five stars, 61 books in total for 2015. I then went back and read my reviews of these books and with a lot of difficulty chose the ones I liked best. It was extremely hard to pick the best out of a number of books I absolutely loved.

It was particularly hard to choose my top three as a number of books lifted the bar for thrillers, particularly the psychological thriller genre, for me this year. As always these are my personal favourites and may not reflect your own choice in best books of 2015.

Without further procrastination these were the stars of 2015 for me, click on the titles to see my original review and for links to the books.

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THE SHUT EYE by Belinda Bauer

Truly love a good psychological thriller. Please feel free to recommend any others that you’ve enjoyed.

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Bauer writes intense psychological thrillers that move on the backs of her fascinating characters, and her latest is no exception.

Latham is the “shut eye,” a psychic, who is called in desperation to aid in the case of a missing twelve year old girl. Detective Chief Inspector Marvel is a cold, single minded investigator who never gives up, and keeps the case open. Marvel also has a murder to work on, except his superior orders him off the murder investigation to find a missing dog, and Marvel is infuriated.

Meanwhile another child is missing; four-year-old Daniel wandered off after his father accidentally left the front door open. The only evidence is a set of Daniel’s footprints through wet cement which disappear into nothingness, and his mother, Anna, turns those footprints into a shrine.  Anna becomes understandably depressed, then agoraphobic and starts sinking deeper and deeper into madness, until she…

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