|The Wool Over My Eyes|
The world of the silo that Howey creates pulls you in immediately. The setting is a distant future, in which the outside air is extremely toxic and deadly forcing people to live in an underground silo. The story is set far enough in the future that all the people in the silo are several generations in.
As you meet characters and get used to the Order (the rules you must follow in the silo), you begin to realize that these people only know the silo and the barren wasteland of toxic air outside as the only thing existing in the world. It is challenging to try and get in that mindset.
Howey's writing is very clever. At the end of Chapter 1, for example, he ends with a character's exclamation, "Tell her I want to go outside." I remember thinking at the time how that didn't seem to be much of a cliffhanger. In the following chapters, we find out how these people have to follow strict rules, never ask questions, and never express ideas or any interest whatsoever in exploring outside. These can all lead to one's exile and certain death.
By pages 33 and 34, you begin to see the theme and understand the meaning behind the title, which has to do with pulling the wool over one's eyes. On these pages, one of the characters is doing something referred to as 'cleaning'.
Holston reached down and pulled a wool pad from his chest. The cleaning! He knew, in a dizzying rush, a torrent of awareness, why, why. Why!"
"His wife had been right: the view from inside was a lie."
What is really fun about the book, is at this point, you have no clear idea of whose eyes the wool has been pulled over. Is it those inside the silo? Holston's eyes? The reader's eyes? A combination or subset of these? This was my hook. I couldn't stop.
Unlike other apocalyptic type stories in which you no longer have things that you know once existed, it explores a world in which you live with several limitations, and are unaware of the multitude of possibilities, and in fact hindered from stumbling upon such possibilities.
Even though I, as the reader, sided with those seeking truth and exposing falsehoods, I noticed the conflict in choosing this side. For things to run smoothly, does everyone need to know the entire truth?
Here we have a character's thoughts late in the novel: "So much about her previous life made sense." "It turned out that some crooked things looked even worse when straightened. Some tangled knots only made sense once unraveled."
What "she" is suggesting here, is that she somewhat understood why certain rules and why certain veils were in place, even though "she" was completely and totally on the side of squashing such rules and unveiling the secrets.
Isn't it best if the wool is pulled over several eyes in some cases? But then, who decides those cases? This is what the book will probe you into thinking about, which is what I love. Trust me when I say, the book was very engrossing. It kept me up a little at night and definitely affected a dream or two.
I'll finish with a few lines I really loved as an academic, but are nowhere near central to the story. These words are thoughts of Walker, who is tinkering with a walkee talkee that only has one channel.
"Walker was the one who had taught Scottie that it's always okay to admit when you don't know something. If you couldn't do this, you would never truly know anything."