About the Book
Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe and done the right thing, but when faced with a terminal illness, he’s willing to take an insane gamble. He’s built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he’ll face a world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and the cost of paradise. He could find more than a cure for his illness; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began…but only if he can survive Hollow World.
Welcome to the future and a new sci-fantasy thriller from the bestselling author of The Riyria Revelations.
384 pages (paperback)
Published on April 15, 2014
Published by Tachyon Publications
This book was sent for me to review by the author.
As soon as I heard about Hollow World I jumped on the bandwagon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love it when authors take a left turn and tries something absolutely new and different. Sullivan is known for his epic fantasy, so a time travel/futuristic SciFi is absolutely different than his usual work.
He had my attention.
The thing is, despite the fact that this is an absolutely different genre than Sullivan fans will expect, there are still some qualities here that are owned by the author. For example, Sullivan excels at telling an action packed story set in a huge world that is slowly expanded upon in the periphery of the story. Also, he does a great job at developing characters you can really cling to. And all of that is evident in Hollow World.
Hollow World tells the story of Ellis, an everyman in every sense of the word. He’s into middle age, he’s got a wife and he’s looking at retirement. He also has a chronic heart condition he doesn’t want to tell his family about. That last little touch really adds to his character in a lot of surprising ways. For example, with the chronic heart condition, Ellis truly has a “this is my last shot at life so let me live it” attitude. He is willing to take chances that he otherwise wouldn’t.
This novel has a lot of heart, and it also has plenty of adventure (signature Sullivan-style). However, it has a lot of deeper notes. Sullivan does a great job at exploring issues that will strike most of us at our hearts. What make us human? How do we connect with each other? What is our place on this giant rock hurdling through space? Having Ellis be a true outsider in a world where exterior individuality has basically been washed out makes the search for these answers that much more poignant. The fact that Ellis could be your next door neighbor, or any of us, makes all of these themes that Sullivan is playing with strike home.
And he does all of this without losing that fun, fast, furious, and adventurous edge I absolutely love him for.
Ellis isn’t the only character in this book. The other two that readers will become familiar with are Pax and Alva. While Pax outwardly looks exactly like everyone else, he is truly individual. It’s interesting how, once the author takes away all outward identifying features, the personality traits become so much more important. In a lot of ways, that’s what Sullivan is doing throughout the novel. He’s stripping everyone and everything down to its bare roots and making readers look at the core of who we are and how our actions affect each other. He does it with skill and finesse, and while I’d classify this as social science fiction, he never really hits readers over the head with it. Into this mix is an AI that grew on me and became a person and independent personality in its own right, and some memorable secondary characters.
The interesting thing about Hollow World is that it is told in a sort of old school SciFi style, an Orwellian time-travel tale with a mystery at its core. I never really thought I’d be into that sort of thing, and in all honesty, I’m not. That being said, Sullivan pulls it off. Hollow World is intensely readable, and the old-school feel of it felt true to the characters, and the story Sullivan is trying to tell. This novel isn’t about flash and fancy gizmos and gadgets. It’s about humanity, and the things inside us that make us human and interconnected. The flash and tech would obscure the core messages, and I appreciate Sullivan for keeping it fairly simple when simple is pretty hard to obtain in SciFi.
Hollow World is very well done. The mystery became a little transparent close to the end, but I didn’t care because everything else in the book was working so well. Hollow World is packed full of emotion and adventure and filled with characters that become part of you. Hollow World will make you think, but its fast pace and simplistic mannerisms also make this an easy novel to devour surprisingly fast. It will stick with you after you’re finished with it.
I, for one, sincerely hope Sullivan revisits this world.
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