Book Review: HOLLOW WORLD by Michael J. Sullivan

Hollow WorldOne of the first things that appealed about Hollow World was how easy it was to get into the story. Written in the classic style of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Michael J. Sullivan’s Hollow World produces a modern story just as enjoyable, if not more so, than its predecessor. The main character, Ellis Rodgers, is introduced to the readers while finding out that he has terminal cancer, and instead of tearing up, he starts laughing. The mystery in his story continues from there to the final line, and the discoveries along the way were a real treat.

Ellis Rogers laughs because he had just recently discovered the secret to time travel. In a story that delves into his philosophy on God’s existence and serendipitous involvement in his life, this is the first sign that something special is going on. But, as we follow him home, we see why the notion of being special is so foreign to him. His relationship to his wife of over thirty years has fallen into a depressing routine since their son killed himself. She keeps the television on to avoid silence and he seems to come home only for food, sleep and to work alone in his garage.

As a reader who is almost five years into marriage, this is a great fear, and it really caused me to empathize with Ellis and hope for him to find happiness. As an aside, if you read Greener Grass, the short story he wrote last year that involved a similar time-travel plot, this story is almost completely different and has a much more engaging character in Ellis.

I don’t want to give away what happens next between him and his wife, except for the obvious conclusion that his time-travel device worked. In a genre where science jargon can get out of hand, I think Sullivan did a great job creating believability without slowing the story down. I found Ellis’s research and efforts satisfying on a discovery of science level without wishing for anything to be edited out. This is Sullivan’s style, and one that makes him so consistently readable.

Another aspect of Sullivan’s style, which you may know from his Epic Fantasy series, Riyria Revelations and Riyria Chronicles, is that after he hooks you with his likable characters, he whisks you off into a richly imagined world. How can I share with you this futuristic world without ruining the experience of discovering it? I suppose I’ll just say that this future has wiped out the Y chromosome and created a haven where people are safe from war… or so they think.

The removal of the Y chromosome is important to mention because in this future world that Ellis crashes into, he will be faced with interacting with people without the classification of “he” or “she.” This is another part of the mystery, so I’ll just say that Sullivan uses this to deliver a powerful realization about love.

Now that I think about it, most of the entertaining philosophical questions are hinged on spoilers. Darn it, Sullivan! 😉 I’ll ask some of the questions that he does and let you find out how they fit with his characters and the mystery of who plans to destroy Hollow World.

Is the pursuit of God beneficial to our civilization?

Have we pursued God in the right way?

Do we really love our neighbor?

Do we really love our spouse?

If we had the power to force our beliefs on the world, would it be better off? Are we fundamentally similar to tyrants of old, lacking only the power and circumstance to make worldwide changes?

Would we be better off with a device that made whatever we wanted, or a full-time job to pay for the things we want?

Would you like to live forever?

These powerful questions that Sullivan explores about existence, love, and trials make Hollow World one of the deeper and enjoyable stories of 2014. Hollow World is a highly recommended time-travel story and a must read for anyone who loves the nostalgia of their first adventure into the possibilities of past and future.

*Note: Hollow World print copies are sold across most book buying platforms, but is published through Tachyon Publications. Ebook versions come free if you buy the print version.

Buy direct: Save 15%, get signed and/or dedicated books, and provide author the highest possible income. Print available for all copies, ebooks include Hollow World.

Timothy C. Ward
Executive Producer

Timothy C. Ward has been podcasting since 2010, first as AudioTim, and now with AISFP. His first publication, Cornhusker: Demon Gene (A Short Story), is available on Kindle for $.99. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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  1. Cheryl Holsonbake says:

    I love this book and enjoyed your review! You are so right about the entertaining philosophical questions being hinged on spoilers! So much so, that I hesitate to talk much about the book with people who haven’t actually read it because I don’t want to give anything away.

    My personal criteria for a “five-star” rating/review, is whether I still think about the book long after I have finished it and if I continue to seriously ponder the author’s themes & characters beyond my next read. My answers on Hollow World: yes and yes! This book may challenge preconceived notions about lots of things and it is definitely meant to be pondered. Plus, it’s just a really good read.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your review. Folks need to get it and read it!

    • Thanks for sharing, Cheryl (and for subscribing). Michael’s part of the show now, so if you have a question about this that you’d like me to ask him next time we record, fire away.

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