Book Review – Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

Review of: Hollow World
Michael J. Sullivan

Reviewed by:
On 2014-07-21
Last modified:2014-07-21


The first half is fairly amateurish future tourism, but the second half has twists and stakes and an exploration of society and morality.

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

The blurb extemporizes:

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 diagnosed 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. Ellis could find more than a cure for his disease; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began — but only if he can survive the Hollow World.

Considering it’s mentioned in the blurb, I’m not giving anything away by saying that in this book one of the first things the main character does is to take a one-way trip in a time machine.  His motivation for taking such drastic action is fairly well justified by the blurb-mentioned terminal illness, but the fact that he didn’t do an unmanned test first strikes me as unrealistic.

Never mind creating an artificial mass the size of multiple planets from domestic voltage that would have been disconnected as soon as you started using it, but this is sci-fi so I guess we can suspend disbelief.

There are a few things about this book that yell “self published” and one of them is a huge coincidence in the first quarter of the book.  I can’t help but feel that a good editor would have pointed this out and had the author rewrite it so that the demands of the story are met without resorting to the main character happening to be in the exact right place at the exact right time.

The first half of the book is reminiscent of The Time Machine – not just because the plot is fairly similar but because it has the “tourist in a strange land” vibe that a lot of that vintage of speculative literature has.

Another amateurish thing that annoyed me is that in the future everyone conveniently speaks English, and the explanation is somewhere between ignorant and imperialist (but definitely unrealistic).  Similarly a character casually mentions that all religions have disappeared because people simply “forgot” about them – this doesn’t seem consistent with either history or human nature.

I had a problem with the unrealistic attitudes of the main character until I realized that they were anachronistic because they were Boomer attitudes and I hadn’t been thinking of the character as being in that generation.  I don’t know if that’s the writer’s fault or mine.

Another unrealistic thing was that there were two thousand year old wooden buildings.  Considering that all we have of the Romans’ 2000 year old construction are the stone parts, this feels wrong (especially post-apocalypse).

The Kindle edition of this book contains two versions – a normal one and “a PG-13 version for those that object to explicit language.”  This really confused me for a while because the story was wrapping up and I was only approaching the 50% mark of the book.

Fortunately the second half of the book is a lot better – there are a couple of good twists, and the tourist schtick is replaced with an exploration of what we want the world to be and what love is.