21 May, 2014

Review - Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan has made a name for himself by not only mastering the self-published market, but by making the transition to traditional publishing. Successful on both fronts, Sullivan continues to publish books whether a publishing house wants to pursue it or not. This is ideal for an author because their ideas need not be limited by whether a traditional publishing house can make money or not. The author can just write stories.

In the case of Hollow World, it was the best of both worlds. Traditional publishing passed on the idea so Michael decided to self-publish it with the help of Kickstarter. There, he obtained the money for two excellent editors who are known for excellent work in traditional publishing markets. Once this got going and the interest was obvious, Tachyon publishing jumped on board - a smaller house, but with plenty of audience reach. 

I jumped on the Michael J. Sullivan bandwagon when he was self-publishing his Riyria Revelations series (because that's how cool I am).  I took a safe bet, what with blogs and forums being abuzz at the time, which is the effect Goodreads and blogging have had on my life. I tend not to read many bad novels anymore.

Wow, lots of rambling today.

Hollow World is a time travel novel about a distant future when individuality has been obliterated in favor of peace and longer life. Sullivan explains in the introduction that the reader shouldn't get bogged down in how time travel works in his novel because that's not the important part - it's about exploring the new world and the characters who are doing it. And at the same time, I was perfectly convinced that time travel could work the way it's explained.

But I think that was a good primer. This book is science fiction, but it's not really about the science. Okay, it's not about the science at all. It's about the future society, the trade-offs, the character interactions, and a compelling mystery to boot.

It's amazing how many trade-offs we, as a society, are willing to endure. We accept automobiles because of how useful they are, yet they cause how many thousands of deaths a year. David Foster Wallace has a short article on the trade offs of the patriot act and our lack of public discussion about whether we, as a society, were willing to sacrifice our privacy for security. 

Are we willing to trade individuality for peace, for longer life, for the cure to cancer and any other disease? That's what Hollow World invites you to discover and that's only peripherally. Against this background, he throws in a page-turning mystery where in a world with no disease and crime is unheard of, murders are suddenly occurring. 

Michael J. Sullivan proves his hand at science fiction and ideas just as he proved it in his excellent fantasy series, The Riyria Revelations and Chronicles. I had a great time with this one. Yes, there were some parts you have to suspend disbelief, but I was engaged with the story too much to care, and it is time travel so you have to expect that. 

Hollow World is a place you want to keep exploring. Sullivan's typical style is present here, no getting bogged down with info-dumps. The pages fly by and you get the necessary information as you go. This was a great break in my typical epic fantasy heavy reading schedule and highly recommended.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

A copy of this book was provided by the author (and I contributed to the kickstarter for that matter).


Bibliotropic said...

Looking forward to making the time for this one. Most of the reviews I've read for it are generally positive ones, and the concept definitely interests me. Glad to know that you enjoyed it, too!

Bryce L. said...

I'm a big Michael J. Sullivan fan. I still have to review The Crown Tower, which was another great one. And, you know, read the rest of his work.

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