June 2013 Club

WOOL

Wool by Hugh Howey isn’t so much about wool in the sense that we all love, but more about a post-apocalyptic world unwinding and unravelling. As far as the residents of the giant silo are concerned, they are the last living humans on Earth, and they must be born, live and die in an underground silo which they cannot leave, as the outside atmosphere is fatally toxic. I suspect W.O.O.L. is an acronym with hidden meaning in subsequent novels.

This Silo-world is highly organised, like an intricate piece of knitting, with mutually dependent levels running off the central stairwell, devoted to different functions ranging from a cafeteria with view of the desolate world at the top, through IT, Supplies, the Nursery, the Bazaar, the Garment District, and Infirmary, Hydroponic Gardens, Dirt Farms and in the Down Deep – Mechanical and the mines.

Punishment for the slightest misdemeanour, or indeed for just questioning the way things are run, results in the culprit being sent to “cleaning” – a form of capital punishment whereby they are evicted to the outside, where they must clean the lens which offers the only view of the rolling hills to the desolate city beyond with wool pads, and then suffer death once the limited protection the clumsy suit affords finally fails.

Howey’s novel has been widely compared to The Hunger Games and 1984, and although there are similarities in terms of dystopian worlds being portrayed, Howey’s imagination and characterisation make his work distinctive in its own right.

As an aside, I read that his mother owns a yarn store, hence the knitting titles of the novelettes when he first electronically published them. And there’s a marvellous description of Mayor Jahns knitting – “With practiced care, she looped the end of the yarn around the point of one needle and crafted a triangle-shaped web with her fingers… this was her favorite part, casting on. She liked beginnings. The first row. Out of nothing comes something.”

It’s incredibly difficult to describe anything more about the plot without giving away major twists and turns in the novel – suffice to say, don’t get too close to any of the characters! And even if you don’t consider yourself a traditional sci-fi fan, don’t let that put you off a good read.

Colourway inspiration
Choosing colourways was a challenge. Colours in the book tend to be either blue and green of the enhanced landscape, metallic descriptions of the silo’s innards or the primary colours of the colour-coded coveralls for each department.

For the variegated version, I didn’t want anything as harsh as separate primary colours, so I took the colours of the coveralls – blue for mechanical, red and silver for IT, yellow for supply and green for the horticulturalists – and left the wool quite wet, squidging all the colours to blend together. Because of the high percentage of blue, yellow and green, the overall result is toning shades of greens, with occasional hints of purple, with every skein a little different. A perfect contrast for the semi-solid.

Don’t Go Outside
For the semi-solid colourway, I opted for green to represent the emergency lights which are Juliette’s lifeline in Silo 17. There is a green glow described throughout, helping her navigate her way, even during her treacherous dive to attempt to get the pumps working to alleviate the flood conditions.

Emergency Lights
For the yarn type – well, it had to be wool! A little incongruous for summer, I know, but as I type, the rain is coming down in true British summer style. I thought you might appreciate some Voluptuous – it is DK, but you get a whooping 560 yards per skein – very long like the book – so you should be able to knit something fairly substantial with that. And it’s a true wool – Exmoor Blue – from sheep raised in Devon mixed with organic merino.