Hollow World was a novel that I was really excited about reading. I mean, one of my favorite fantasy authors, Michael J Sullivan, penned it, and it promised to be a science fiction novel in the mold of H.G. Wells classic The Time Machine, which is one of my childhood favorites. So, all the stars seemed to be lined up for me to thoroughly enjoy this one. Unfortunately, the novel and I quickly took a dislike to one another, and while I did finish it, I cannot say that I enjoyed the experience.
The plot of this novel centers on one Ellis Rogers: an ordinary guy who seems to have a good life. He is married, has a comfortable job, and even has a best friend named Warren, who has been along for life’s rocky road since high school. But though everything seems great with Ellis’ world from the outside, things are not so rosy within. First, he and his wife hardly have anything to do with one another anymore. (Years before, their only child committed suicide and that loss was so devastating that it has become a wedge holding them apart.) Second, Ellis has just discovered that he has a terminal illness and that he has only six months to live!
In a situation similar to Ellis, most people would be paralyzed with fear by this diagnosis and struggle with what to do with their short time remaining. Should they submit to grueling medical treatments that have little hope of saving their life? Maybe, head off to finally complete all those childhood adventure that are on their bucket list? Or perhaps, they would just patch things up with their loved ones? However, Ellis doesn’t go through all these myriad emotional choices, because as soon as he gets the diagnosis he knows exactly what he intends to do: fire up the time machine in his garage and head off into the future!
Sure, there are drawbacks to Ellis' plan. I mean, he doesn’t know if the time machine will actually work, and even if it does work, it is a one way trip. Plus, he has no idea what he will find in the future. But even knowing all that, Ellis doesn't see any reason not to give it a try. So without a word of goodbye to his wife, our middle aged adventurer heads off into the future to find a cure and begin his new life!
As he speeds off into the unknown, Ellis has his own perception of what the future will be like. Flying cars, robots, and all those other Jetson-esque things, most likely. But what he finds is something so different that it shocks his “modern” twenty-first century sensibilities.
Before our cure-seeking hero can get a grip on how different the world is, however, he finds himself stumbling into the middle of a murder. Something that is unheard of in this peaceful world. Quickly, he is drawn into the investigation, as he is the only person qualified for the job, since he is the only person alive who has ever experienced a murder – even if his experience was through murder mystery novels.
Once the investigation begins, it quickly leads to an unexpected place and an unexpected person, and Ellis is forced to make a choice about whether this human utopia should be saved or destroyed. A decision that requires him to make a judgment on whether the new, non-traditional Earth and its values are good or bad!
After reading that description, I am sure this novel sounds very interesting to many of you, and no doubt, a few of you might wonder how I could have given it only two stars. In response, I must admit that I wanted to love this book, and as I finished the first few chapters, I tried very hard to convince myself that this was going to be another of Mr. Sullivan’s enjoyable rides. However, the simple fact is that Hollow World was just not for me.
To expound why I did not love this novel, let me establish something up front: I really, really do not like stories that are political in nature or preachy about social issues. Whether that is a religious novel disguising itself as a fantasy tale or a social activist work that markets itself as an adventure story, I am just instantly turned off by morality plays. Sure, they were fine when I was a teenager, but now I really do not enjoy them. The simple fact of the matter is that I read for escapism reasons: I want to be transported away from the present world with all its modern sensibilities and endless debate regarding political and social issues and experience for a few hours something new and wondrous that causes the present to fade away. So obviously, my destination of choice is not going to be a future Earth where classic religious beliefs and modern sensibilities clash to see which is more palatable and correct.
In summation, Hollow World is Mr. Sullivan’s time machine social commentary. It extrapolates on what heaven is, what is god, how can mankind create utopia, and what forms do love come in. Whether that type of story will be to your liking is based upon your personal reading tastes and whether you enjoy modern, morality plays. If, however, you are searching for a grand adventure tale or an escapist vehicle, this one is probably not for you.
I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank both of them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.