Review: Hollow World by Michael J Sullivan

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Publisher: Tachyon
Publishing Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781616961831
Genre: Fantasy/Scifi
Rating: 2.6/5.0

Publisher Description: Ellis Rogers is a seemingly 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 he is faced with a terminal illness, Ellis is willing to take an insane gamble. He’s secretly built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he’ll face a utopian world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and what the cost of paradise really might be.

Review: The cover art is not too bad. Wondering what the frick Pax is doing. Looks like a manic robot.

This is a quality of writing that is NOT reminiscent of the Ryria Chronicles, in depth and breadth. The story-line is tethered to an exhausting explanation as to why Hollow World exists and how it currently operates. Mr. Sullivan is known for creating a story-line that is inter-woven into the tapestry of movement. So why this sudden regression? It may have to do with the authors unfamiliarity of writing a stand-alone novel with an abrupt story-line or one that doesn’t cover the expansiveness of a world building epic. There is evidence that this occurred where the author utilizes the tried and true easy way to explain emotions without the character development and story-line to build it. The dreaded “actually” adverb is used quite a bit to form this consensus believability about actions and thoughts. Other word crutches relied on were “growled”, “scowled” and “scowl”. Not enough to piss you off like most of these indie authors, but really not acceptable coming from an exceptionally accomplished writer. My other shjtpick was Ren’s calling the M1911 pistol a “Browning”. It is not a Browning. Is was designed by Browning but never manufactured under that moniker. The author’s preface really reads like a “this is my reasoning for time travel, don’t try to bludgeon me with authenticity, and I apologize in advance”. He should really consider deleting or editing that preface. No one wants to read a novel where the author makes indirect excuses for his work that follows. If he only cares that his wife likes it, then why the qualifiers? Heck it is a scifi/fantasy novel…go with it.

I liked the character Ellis and Pax. This un-dynamic duo were good anchor points in a decidedly blasé’ novel. While their relationship travels more quickly than would normally occur, there is this innocence that draws in the reader to those particular characters. Innocence coupled with honesty and this belief in the underdog shtick make for riveting reader involvement. The author touches on a variety of societal schisms that he claims are part of his dualist approach to life. Which may be a way of saying “I have no position on anything as I have no real embedded faith based on the experiential”. This is a cop out IMHO as any centrist has always taken this “I am enlightened and above it all” approach to life’s problematic pursuits. The author talks about how certain instances in this novel will garner negative reactions. I think I am more disappointed in the authors lack of conviction in any one process due to his chronic look at fulfillment in all things that are presented as an external manifestation of the mind (Religion, politics etc.). In this future the author decides that God is fleeting and that love for one another (no matter the orientation) is all we ultimately have. At least that’s how I read it. The author pre-supposes that all things of the mind (identity, intelligence, ego, emotive qualities, physicality etc.) is the only vehicle entertained on a path towards enlightenment. No wonder he’s cynical errrr……. dualist. This dualistic approach to life resides within the current progressive philosophy.

I read this novel presupposing that it would deliver like Sullivan’s prior works. It is hard not to with Mr. Sullivan, as his work inspires many authors and counts many in his fan base, me included. This novel had it’s moments of scene engagement coupled with the characters advancing in depth. There was just too much back story on Hollow World that the author tried to fit in (and around) an interesting story-line. I kept waiting for the story to take off and build in intensity like the Ryria series. There was this brief yet very interesting mystery that could have been expanded to involve the reader more while eliminating the lengthy descriptions and explanations of Hollow World. If you want to buy this, I would still recommend it, just don’t expect this work to mirror any prior novels by this author. The author has plans for additional novels based around Pax and Ellis. Dunno about that. The story-line and character development would have to marry in a way that supports the movement implied. Perhaps a new editor is called for, rather than a known group/individual that has too much emotional investment in the author and his works.

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