I’d received an advanced review copy from Michael J. Sullivan, but I paid for mine. I was one of the backers on Kickstarter. I’d briefly communicated with Mr. Sullivan before participating in his project. He assured me I’d like the protagonist after disclosing to him what I don’t like to read.
He was right, I did like Ellis Rogers.
Ellis is a 58-years old MIT graduate living with a crippled marriage and failing lungs. He’s expected to die soon of pulmonary fibrosis, and his wife barely notices he’s there in the first place. Six months to live is the doctor’s prognosis, to which Ellis responds with a chuckle. Mr. Roger’s isn’t too worried about the constraints of time—in his garage he’s built a time machine. With the promise of a painful death less than a year down the road, Ellis finds the courage to leave 2014 behind, and jump forward into 2214. No one in Detroit wants him. Maybe the veil of time hides a cure for his ailing lungs, perhaps only a quick jump up the road.
Saying good-bye to his only friend, he leaves the schematics for the time machine with his so-called pal, “Time Machine? You interrupt me for this? Can’t’chu see I’m watching football rewind on ESPN?” So Ellis goes home, fires up the time machine, and flies forward. (Ellis’s life is a bit more complicated, but this’ll get the point across.)
There is a tiny miscalculation. Ellis shoots forward 2000-years. Whoops.
‘People,’ if that is what we decide to call them, have moved underground. They’ve learned the secrets of immortality and Tomorrowland’s citizenry has figured out how to coexist without war. However, the price is pretty steep. World peace came at the cost of splicing away the Y-chromosome. No longer needing to procreate, genitals have been conveniently discarded from the gene-pool. Ellis truly is the last ‘man’ on Earth.
Edits were tight. The writing flowed easy, and with an edge of humor, Hollow World was a pleasure to read. Those who are expecting Riyria Chronicles should instead expect Casual Vacancy. This isn’t Harry Potter. Without reading Mr. Sullivan’s earlier works I was able to see this particular work wearing clear glasses. However, in the afterword of the book, Mr. Sullivan warns (a little too late) that he expects many to hate Hollow World. There is a lot of room for hate, especially with America’s current social conscience (or lack there-of.) In the writing, Mr. Sullivan decided to poke several hot buttons. This fact raised my opinion of the book greatly.
Now is the point in this review where I will gripe, but to express my gripes there might be minor spoilers.
I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum, but you’ve been warned.
Sci-fi isn’t easy to write. I sure as hell won’t do it.
2,000 years in the future, it might be hard to get cell phone coverage. Ellis doesn’t call anyone, but he does check his 2,000-year old voice mail. Most people won’t understand that statement, so I’ll explain. Messages are not kept on the actual phone, but through a digital service accessed on a computer somewhere in ether space. No AT&T equals no voice mail.
I liked all the heady world building—some of it is real heady. Despite being well written, physicists will be annoyed by the simplicity of the time machine, and plenty of readers will hate how rocks are the source of food. Like Satan told Jesus out in the wilderness, “If you are hungry, just turn those rocks into bread.” On the downside, there wasn’t a lot of action, almost none. Hollow World is still an adventure, but many readers will be displeased with the absence of hostility—which seems ironic since the novel is about a near-utopian society.
This is the gripe that really bugged me. The character named Pax, just like Pol, Dex, Geo, and Cha, do not have Y-chromosomes. No one in Hollow World does. They are not ‘men.’ ‘He’ is the wrong pronoun. Without Genitalia, I found the supposed behavior of ‘Homosexuality’ as being implausible, if not absolutely impossible. You will understand at the end, which I found to be a little [cough-cough] ‘Gay.’
In total, the summary of my experience–I found Hollow World enjoyable to read. Eventually, I’ll find my way back to another Michael J. Sullivan story. I look forward to Rhune, reportedly beginning the next fantasy trilogy promised to be written.
(All links lead to Wikipedia, it is easier than surfing all over the net for stronger sources, and Wiki’s data is solid enough to stand on.)