Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

Review originally written and posted to Goodreads on August 12, 2016:

I'm sitting here, just having turned off the audio version of this and my head is swimming with thoughts. This is a beautiful story that questions the core essences of humanity, love, religion, and life. Like the protagonist, Ellis Rogers, I went on this journey expecting a classic time travel story and instead encountered something else entirely.

Ellis Rogers is tired of his ordinary life. As a brilliant scientist not living up to his potential, he has always dreamed of something bigger, but never managed to achieve it. Instead, he settled. He married the first woman he was with and he clung to the first friend he ever had, even though both of those choices weren't really right for him. Ellis isn't happy. He isn't even really miserable. He just... exists. Then like another scientist living below his potential, Walter White, he is diagnosed with a fatal illness and death becomes the wake up call that shows him what it means to be alive. Only, instead of building an evil meth empire, Ellis invents time travel.

There is an equation that a scientist named Hoffman developed that would allow someone to step into another dimension, wait for time to pass, and then step back. Time would still pass, but the traveller would only experience a fraction of it - like how time travels quickly when we sleep. Hoffman made a mistake and never completed his equation, but Ellis figures out the error and sets off for 200 or so years into the future, hoping for a cure and a new life. Instead, he travels over 2000 years into the future and lands in Hollow World.

Hollow World is pretty much utopia. It was nice to see a future that wasn't a bleak apocalypse. Sure, Hollow World has problems and struggles, but there is no war, violence, poverty, racism, disease or even death. It sounds wonderful, but there is a cost. The cost to paradise is true individuality. Everyone is developed on a pattern and with only a very few exceptions, everyone is identical. There is no racism or sexism because everyone is the same race and sex. Or, rather, they don't have a sex at all. They have different personalities and skill sets, and slightly different voices, but physically, everyone looks the same.

But Hollow World holds a surprise for Ellis - well a few surprises really - and Ellis is forced to not only reexamine everything he's ever believed, but to make a decision that will determine the entire future of Hollow World.

This book is amazing. I don't know what else to say about it without giving up key spoilers and I think the book is better with the mystery and surprises. Some of the mystery that is going on seems painfully obvious to us readers, but we are mere observers and not clouded by Ellis' history and memories. So, please forgive him his failings and blindness if you join him in Hollow World. He can't help how he is.

I found myself just wanting to spend time in Hollow World, exploring and relaxing with Ellis and his new friend, Pax. Would I surrender my individuality to live there? I don't know. But it was sure nice to visit.



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