Hollow World - Michael J. Sullivan This book isn’t coming out until early next year but I was able to read the ebook version because I backed the Kickstarter campaign. As such, I was going to wait a little before I wrote up a review for the blog but then I realized I just couldn’t contain my excitement anymore. Hence, I’m putting up an early version of my thoughts here on Goodreads instead.

First, a little bit of history: Michael J. Sullivan first took Hollow World to Kickstarter because while everyone he spoke to loved the idea behind the book, he was told this kind of story just wasn’t marketable. Science fiction these days is dominated by established franchises, space operas and military science fiction, etc. It seemed there was very little room for this good old cross-genre time travel tale about a 58-year-old man dying from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, who decides to journey into the future in the hopes of finding a cure.

To be honest, this shocked me, especially after I finished reading this book. Sure, Hollow World may be different from what’s out there in mainstream sci-fi right now (which isn’t a bad thing at all, in my eyes) but given how so many great and original story ideas have found their way to being published in recent years, surely – SURELY – this book could have found a place!

In any case, thank goodness for small press and self-pubs, as well as the crowd-funding sites that support these endeavors. Hollow World is probably my new favorite book by Michael J. Sullivan, right up there with Heir of Novron. Yes, it was a bit strange to be reading something by him that’s not related to Riyria, but it was a very good and pleasant kind of strange. The author’s style and modern lingo really suits the story. And sure, there are some areas where the writing could have been tightened up, and despite rigorous editing there are still some minor things like typos or syntax errors, but such is the way with non-traditional publishing. I certainly wasn’t going to hold that against the book, and was happy just to sit back and enjoy the ride.

I rated this book highly based purely on enjoyment factor. I will admit, though, that I didn’t fall in love with it right away. There’s a lot of world building and setting up of the story, which was all done very well, but that feeling of “Oh wow, this book is REALLY something special” or “Dammit, now I can’t put this down” didn’t hit me until later. It’s obvious that Michael J. Sullivan drew inspiration from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine for Hollow World and he even makes mention to the classic in his foreword. HOW the protagonist Ellis Rogers traveled forward into the future in a disembodied old van seat surrounded by a stack of plastic milk crates doesn’t matter and isn’t the point – it’s the connotations and ideas that come out of the story that made this book such a great read.

I can also understand now more about the author’s description of Hollow World on the Kickstarter page, or rather, how it’s difficult for him to put into words this cross-genre piece mixing elements of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thriller, adventure and even a bit of romance. This confluence of ideas from multiple genres is probably what made the book such a tough sell to begin with, but I definitely liked its multiple facets.

Indeed, Hollow World is like a study in pluralities – interpretations of God and religion, hive mind versus individuality, harmony versus chaos. When does a utopia become a dystopia? Is it worth it to trade comfort and security for freedom? Sacrifice peace and happiness for a sense of accomplishment? Does it bother me that the book made me want to say yes or say no? Is there a middle ground or why can't we have it all? At certain points, this book made me so angry I wanted to smack the main character upside the head; at others, I was so moved that I was almost in tears. Be shocked, be discomfited, joyous, annoyed, ecstatic, deeply touched – it shouldn’t matter, and it didn’t to me; all I cared was that I was asking questions and contemplating the answers. Without a doubt, the best part about Hollow World is also its most obvious duality: that is light and enjoyable reading but also heavy on philosophy and will definitely make you think.