I admit, sometimes, those times I have to go into Target, I cruise the books section. I do it to check out the latest and greatest, according to the marketing experts at Target. I do it because there is no other “Book” store within 40 miles of my house. I do it because I need the jab in the eye of seeing what literature is trending, based on the publisher promotional budgets, the likes of Oprah, and the likes of celebrity (anyone can write a book) authorship. Jealousy? I don’t think so, more of a sensation of revulsion, horror, sadness, at what in general passes for literature in the discount department store world.
I ask, when was the last time you saw a book of poetry in the Target Book aisle? Ever? Probably not. I ask you, how many books of poetry does the average reader read in a year? One? None? Probably right.
But this isn’t a post about the sad lack of poetry appreciation in the general reading world. This post is about the ever so fleeting chance of finding something worth reading, inspiring and unusual, in the Target Book Aisles. This post is about not giving up on the general readership, because occasionally, very occasionally, they are on to something, and it is worth paying attention just in case.
My last trip to Target, in need of razor blades (for Dennis, and what a scam razor manufacturers have going), aspirin, and toothpaste, I strolled down the Book Aisles. Since there are only a couple endcaps and a small shelf section that has anything of interest on it, (newly released, if you liked…, latest movie adaptation, and YA’s are reading) it was a quick stroll. Then I saw it, a curious book with a curious title and even more curious history.
It appears as an “omnibus” containing five individual stories from a serial novel. The title is “Wool” Hugh Howey wrote it, continues to write it. Mr Howey is a prolific writer of what I would call the sci-fi/ fantasy/ dystopian novel writer.
And he is good. “Wool” which I bought later that day for my kindle at the reduced promotional price of $3.99 (less than a cup of coffee at Dunn Bros.) rather than the trade paperback copy on sale at Target for $12.00, is good solid writing with excellent character development. Howey manages to write about believable characters who evolve and change based on their experiences and circumstances. The plot is steady but not without surprises and brief sections of explication. The description is nicely integrated into the plot. Yeah, it’s good.
“Wool” reads quickly, although it still took me a few days to read it. Not because I had to put it down, had to take a break, but because I had to sleep, I had to accomplish some tasks, and I could not let everything go to sit and read. So obligations and responsibilities kept me from reading the book straight through, and I would have done just that.
What was most intriguing about this book, was not just that it had a good plot, good characters, and good pacing. The book made me question, consider, and compare. Who decided who gets to be in charge? How do we construct a society to meet the needs of everyone? What are we willing to give up for routine and order? What is the place for innovation and independence? How much freedom and independence must we give up for the greater good? And of course, what and who determines the greater good?
Heavy stuff. Heavy, complicated, and probably unanswerable stuff. All that in a book first published as an ebook by the writer. All that from an ebook that has generated a lot of internet buzz (I must not visit those sites) and finally caught the attention of the “Trade” publishers. The movie rights were bought by Ridley Scott!
And there are no zombies, werewolves, witches, wizards, or vampires in this book series. Kind of refreshing.
It is heartening. It is encouraging. It is terrific and I celebrate the industry and the determination of Mr Howey. Good work, keep writing so I can keep reading (yes I want to know what happens next. I have become vested in the characters and their lives).
And all of us out there with our stacks and stacks of written pages or files and files of stories stashed away on some cloud or in some hard drive, maybe it is time to consider putting it out there, releasing it to the fray, instead of letting it moulder, or waiting for the rejection slips to come in.
All us writers, we need to flood the internet with writing, good, speculative, inventive, introspective, genre bending writing. We also need to stop, right now, judging what is already out there based on its format. That book printed by the major publishing company may be good, but that doesn’t mean the only good stuff comes from those publishers. It’s a grain and chaff sort of thing. Sift through what is available, make your own choices, your own criteria for those choices. And when you find something amazing, something overlooked by the marketing geniuses of popular culture, let us know. Shout it out, post it, provide links, promote, promote, promote.
Hugh Howey’s Wool is available in paperback at Target and probably most book stores. It is also available on Amazon. The first novella is a free download, and more than enough to get you hooked.
Oh yea, and if you are going to make a recommendation, don’t just slap the title and author in a facebook post. Tell me what you liked about it, why you think it is good writing, what drew you in, what hooked your attention, what expanded your reality.