So, when I read Hugh Howey’s WOOL Omnibus, I was struck at how Asimovian it was. The tone, the characters, the expandibility of the universe — there was a lot that connected me back to the Science Fiction Master himself, Isaac Asimov.
When I was a kid, I devoured books, but it wasn’t until I read Foundation that something just clicked for me. I loved it. Let me say that another way. If I was stranded on a desert island and I only had one book to read, I might take the Foundation Trilogy Omnibus hardback I had when I was in junior high.
I probably started reading them right about the time that Asimov passed away, although I’m sure I didn’t know that for a few years.
Asimov had a way of capturing the reader and pulling them into the story. There was always a certain humanity about all of his tales, whether they took place in a robotics lab, on a distant planet where humans had adapted to live apart from one another, or tens of thousands of years in the distant future in the heart of a galactic empire.
I felt the same way about Howey’s WOOL. At it’s heart, its a tale of what humanity does to preserve and live even when the odds are against it. In fact, I found that in Asimov’s stories, particularly in the Hari Seldon tales, the future was guaranteed. It will happen, it is just a matter of how humanity reacts to it. In fact, humanity has done it all to themselves in many ways.
And so Howey mirrors the same themes in WOOL. The characters drive the story, but the background is established by events out of their control. Their future is seemingly set already and it is only through extraordinary means that they can change their destiny.
Another link to Foundation for me was the interconnectedness. By the time Asimov had died, he’d linked his early robot stories like Robots of Dawn to his later Foundation books. In spite of several decades separating the writing of those books, Asimov pieced together a logical conclusion. Then, when he was gone, his estate allowed three authors to write in the Foundation universe.
Hugh has connected his first, brief, WOOL story to four other parts in the Omnibus — then to three stories in SHIFT, a prequel, and now tomorrow in DUST. Hugh is also allowing fans to write in his world, (including yours truly) and thankfully it isn’t after his death.
After I’d read WOOL, the first review I wrote compared it to Foundation. I can’t find that review today, but I stand by it. I was poking around and found Howey’s Top 10 books of all time and wasn’t surprised at all to find Foundation listed at #4. It clearly left a huge impression on Hugh.
And…just like Asimov took 30 years off between Foundation novels at one point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see WOOL stories from their founder again decades later.