‘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”.

“Predators – killers without a conscience”

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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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Review: All the Light We Cannot See

Sounds like yet another interesting read. How have others found it?

Robbin Writes

It’s been a few months since I’ve shared a book that’s been as buzzed-about as today’s read: All the Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr. I knew very little about this book when I picked it up, but well-reputed historical fiction? Consider me hooked.

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Via Goodreads:

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a…

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Review | The Masked Truth, Kelley Armstrong

Sounds like an interesting novel. Would love to hear how others have felt about it.

Literary Treats

24733600I love Kelley Armstrong’s work, and The Masked Truth is no exception. A group of troubled teens spends a weekend in therapy camp, and are taken hostage by a group of masked men. It’s a scary premise, and Armstrong lives up to expectations, keeping the pace on an adrenaline high throughout.

The main characters are Riley, who had witnessed the brutal murder of a couple she was babysitting for, and Max, whose psychiatric condition leads him to doubt everything he sees. Both characters are kickass and well-developed, and as always, Armstrong’s heroine is a standout.

Armstrong also gives us a glimpse into the reality of schizophrenia — I knew of the condition, but had no idea how terrifying it could be, or how dangerous it could make someone given a lack of treatment and the wrong circumstances.

The ending was a bit of a letdown, with the big reveal being far…

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“The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry,” by Jon Ronson

psychopath test

In his book “The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry,” journalist Jon Ronson is hired to try and unravel a mysterious game that’s being played out by world’s finest academic minds.

It involves an anonymous manuscript, riddles and pictures.

Accepting the challenge, he embarks on a journey that takes him not only half way around the world, but as a by-product, of his investigations, into the mysterious world of madness.

During his two-year journey, Ronson finds himself becoming fascinated by the topic of mental illness in general, and, almost by accident, psychopathy in particular.

So he sets out to explore the topic in all of its fine detail via interviews with those who have been either assessed or suspected of being psychopaths, as well as several influential psychologists, psychiatrists and even one Scientologist.

It is here that he first begins to learn all about Hare’s famous psychopath checklist; and instantly begins checking off his own personality traits against said list; just to be sure he’s not one of them.

As he begins interviewing people, Ronson takes his readers on an often humorous and at times confronting ride that involves, not only meeting the man who invented the checklist used to diagnose psychopaths, but also engaging in the rather bizarre, though none the less true life story of a man who faked his own mental illness rather than face jail time, simply because he thought his stay would be both shorter and more comfortable in a mental hospital rather than in a jail.

That is until the day he wakes up and realizes that he’s actually terrified of the murders and child molesters that surround him.

Yet despite his best efforts to prove his sanity, he soon finds himself being diagnosed with additional forms of mental illness, as each and every attempt he makes at normality simply ends up a complete and utter disaster.

Ronson begins to questions whether or not this young man may indeed be sane or simply so mired down within his psychopathy that he only believes himself to be sane?

It is whilst having such thoughts that he unexpectedly and quite disturbingly, stumbles across the notion that, in order to operate efficiently, successful societies may just require what’s known as the ‘right amount’ of ruthlessness and insanity to keep them ticking over nicely.

A disturbing thought to say the least.

Yet the more Ronson looks into and interviews people such as Al Dunlap, a ruthless business man who indeed seems to meet all of the criteria on Hare’s psychopath checklist, the more he becomes convinced the concept may be true and that the term psychopath may not just apply to stalkers, rapists and murders but also to cut throat CEO’s.

With each new discovery that he makes, Ronson’s views on psychopaths and mental illness both develop and change until the point in which they become increasingly ambiguous as he realizes that all that really exists between being diagnosed as mentally ill, as opposed to simply being a human being with a few too many quirks, is an extremely thin and increasingly elastic borderline.

As a result he begins to pay attention to the ways in which both the psychiatric profession and the media treat those who are considered mad, or mentally challenged in some way.

“The Psychopath Test” is a simultaneously humorous yet extremely challenging work of nonfiction.

On the one hand, whilst Ronson is poking fun at his own quirks, he is also encouraging his readers to ask important questions not only about themselves, but about their very societies and the way the world is run.

Ronson produces a very readable and an extremely interesting exploration of a topic that most people would traditionally find too scary to contemplate let alone find humor in.

His style is humorous and engaging, his steps light and breezy as he walks that fine line between entertaining his readers without trivializing either the plights of those he’s writing about or dismissing the often disturbing things he talks about.

I found this book to be both a very enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome are not Sociopaths. Sociopaths are Sociopaths.

Review of “Confessions of a Sociopath” by M. E. Thomas
“So what are the challenges that both individuals with Asperger’s and sociopaths are said to share?

Well, according to a jaw droppingly chilling autobiography titled “Confessions or a Sociopath” written by female author M.E. Thomas, who is herself a clinically diagnosed sociopath, they are, an inability to read people’s facial expressions and body language, difficulty with understanding social rules and most importantly an overwhelming lack of empathy for others.”

Seventh Voice

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How many of us shudder each and every time there’s “breaking news” of some lone teenager somewhere, (almost always a male), reported to have gone on a shooting rampage, just knowing that sooner or later the initial shock of the rampage will turn to the tried, but oh so rarely true speculation, that the lone teenage gunman in question, has Asperger’s Syndrome?

I know that I sit and cringe, firstly for the harm inflicted, and secondly for the offensive accusations that cause the fear and mistrust of all individuals with Asperger’s which inevitably accompany each and every report of this kind.

And frankly, I’m baffled by the media’s constantly misaligned assertions as there seems to be  no genuine link between Asperger’s Syndrome, in either men or women, and a propensity towards violence.

There is however a genuine link to be made between those individuals who experience sociopathy and a propensity…

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