While a standalone story, “Proper Gauge” makes clear that Wool is really an episodic novel in the model of Zelazny’s Dilvish, the Damned, rather than simply a shared universe of stories. The story continues from immediately after the events in “Wool 1”, and is enhanced by an awareness of that story.
As in “Wool 1”, I found the writing a little overwrought, and the copy-editing lax. Both the good story and the weak language of the prequel continue. Howey begins with a very nice image of knitting needles, but there’s little subtlety in its application. That lack of polish is equally evident in the occasional missing comma or other grammatical error. Not so much as to really interrupt the story, but enough to make you wish he’d spent just a little more time on fine tuning.
Those weaknesses are a shame, because the story itself is nice. “Proper Gauge” clearly sets up the next stories for some confrontation and silo politics, but it’s also a neat pair of intertwined stories about love and succession. The lead character is reasonably rounded, as is the deputy. Two other key characters are much flatter, and the putative sheriff is simply not very credible. There’s a certain amount of authorialism – things work out very conveniently – but not an outrageous amount for a short story.
All in all, a nice, readable story that doesn’t otherwise stand out. I’ve also picked up part 3, and will read that next, though at present I’m not sure I’d go any farther.