[Book Review] Hollow World

Hollow World / Michael J Sullivan (Powell's Books)

When Ellis Rogers is told he has little time left to live, laughter is probably not the response his doctor expected.  Laughter may not be how he expect to react to news of his looming mortality.  But as it turns out Ellis Rogers may have all the time in the world, or if he's wrong, no time at all.

After all, he's lived a good life, with a mind as sharp as ever, but what does he have holding him to this time?  Haunted by his son's suicide, estranged from his wife, and his best friend seems bitterly stuck in the past.  Whether the machine works or not, Ellis is looking at a one way trip, and he's OK with that.

The future is not what Ellis expected, arriving not 200 years, but 2000 years later in a forest seeming untouched by civilization.  And when he finds civilization he discovers that humanity itself has changed beyond his wildest imagination.  But all it takes is one fanatic out of time to threaten utopia, and Ellis will be caught once again between the life he knew and the life that could be.

Hollow World did not turn out to be the book I expected, based on the book blurb I read when selecting this title.
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.

Ellis could find more than a cure for his disease; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time has begun — but only if he can survive Hollow World.
To me that reads more as if he must escape the Hollow World to get to the utopia than surviving a threat to Hollow World.  Accidental misdirection aside, I found Hollow World to be an enjoyable science fiction novel with well integrated social commentary.  I like the discussion of gender and sexuality that this future brings up.  The one problem I had was that the point of the story was muddled.  At the end everything ties together, but before we get to Ellis' epiphany regarding love the book reads more as if the point is about the dangers of fanaticism and the trap of uniformity.

In a note unrelated to the plot itself, this book has raised my esteem for the publishing house handling the physical edition.  Sullivan talks about the writing and publication process regarding Hollow World in his afterward, and once he made the decision to self-publish the ebook he wanted to retain the ebook rights.  Print-only rights are not something publishers want to purchase these days unless the author has major clout.  Tachyon Publications took his offer, allowing Sullivan to keep the ebook rights while they handle the print publication and distribution.  I think that's really cool.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.


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