A review of Hugh Howey’s ‘Sand’

Having read and loved Hugh Howey’s ‘Wool’ trilogy, I was so excited to get an ARC of his new novel – Sand.

SandAs the title suggests, the protagonists live in a world where the only constant is the sand. A relentless wind buries buildings, forcing people to move on and move up on a regular basis. Carrying buckets of water away from the few surviving wells is a full time, 24 hour a day job. In such a hostile landscape, everything of value – from copper coins to clothes to metals and building materials – is sourced from below the sands, from the cities of the world below, buried far beneath the dunes.

In Springston, people carve out lives for themselves as best they can. The lucky ones live on the wall, which holds back the worst of the sands as best it can. The not so lucky ones live in the shadows of the wall, at the mercy of the shifting landscape, forced to do whatever it takes to survive. Since their father left, Palmer, Vic, Conner, Rob and their mother have been living in the only way that they can, driven by anger, hurt and a curiosity for the unknown. Continue reading

‘Wool’ by Hugh Howey

woolIn Hugh Howey’s breakout self-published fiction novel, generations of people live and die inside a giant underground silo. Their only glimpse of the outside world comes through a dirty camera lens. The worst punishment is to be put outside, where the air is so toxic that people are overcome by it in minutes.

The hills are littered with bones. But still, a seed of rebellion refuses to be put out. There are those that do not believe the outside world is as fatal as they’ve been told. Spurred on by drudgery, endless rules and conspiracy theories, these people will fight to the bitter end to uncover the truth.

This is easily one of the best books in its genre that I’ve read for a while. Continue reading

Going digital

The explosion of self-publishing platforms has, understandably, been a topic of great debate in the publishing world. Quite simply, these platforms have the potential to completely transform the structure of publishing as we know it – from who can publish a book in the public realm to the price that a book will be sold at. But what does this really mean for the industry?

In my opinion, ebooks and self-publishing present a range of new and exciting possibilities to traditional publishers to evolve. Take Penguin, for example. The publisher has recently invested into author services and self-publishing platform, Author Services, while in 2011, ebook sales made up 12% of its total revenue. It’s an impressive percentage that effectively demonstrates the direction that the market is moving in, and from a practical point of view, I can see the appeal. Embracing digital publishing has the potential to reduce overheads and unnecessary outgoings while still offering almost limitless opportunities for expansion.

The perceived threat comes from the vast array of authors who are now able to bypass traditional publishing houses and publish and market their work themselves. Examples of hugely successful self-published authors are not hard to find, and there are a few in particular that any discussion of the topic can’t fail to mention. E. L. James and her Fifty Shades trilogy is one. Hugh Howey and his widely acclaimed apocalyptic novel ‘Wool’ is another.

But I think it’s worth noting that although these authors began their journey in self-publishing, they also made agreements with traditional publishers to produce hard copies of their books. This undoubtedly is a major factor in their success. In fact, Fifty Shades accounted for almost one in ten of the 750 million books sold globally by publisher Random House across the year, resulting in record annual revenues and profits. And although I’d been reading rave reviews of Howey’s ‘Wool’ for a while, it wasn’t until it came out in paperback that I invested in a copy for myself.

This goes to show that the input and expertise of a traditional publishing house is still very much in demand. By positioning themselves as an expert in possession of all of the tools that self-published authors need to hit the big time, publishers can ensure that their knowledge and business model can go hand in hand with the digital revolution.

The real danger posed by self-publishing, as far as I can see, is in the already established, big name authors of the publishing world. There’s a real possibility that as self-publishing becomes more established, these authors could jump ship and take on the role of publisher and marketer for themselves, safe in the knowledge that a large percentage of their loyal readership will duly follow.

Whatever happens, the publishing industry almost certainly has more to gain from embracing digital publishing than it has to lose.