Wool by Hugh Howey is about a community governed by an explicit social compact called “The Pact.” Two key elements that drive the plot and provide the conflict are Effective Communication and Community Participation. If one person does not participate in the community according to the rules of the Pact, then he or she can spark an uprising. The community’s dependence on this one element affects the other key element – communication.
In the case of Wool, communication has been effectively restricted. It is horizontal, not vertical. The Pact has designed a highly stratified society in which members of one group are discouraged – even prevented – from interacting with members of other groups. These two conditions set the stage for an exciting story as the conflict unfolds.
What is striking about Howey’s novel is that the imaginary world he created can be found in real-life. It is not a great stretch to find a highly stratified society, which lacks vertical interaction, and whose leaders attempt control by a set of complicated rules to adjust behavior. In such a society, all it takes to spark an uprising is one person challenging the system by asking “why”.