Hollow World is not a book that falls neatly into categories. On its face it’s a book about time travel: But as I read it I quickly came to see it was more about commenting on our society than about the future.
The book’s hero is an older, very average man with a terminal illness and deep problems in his personal life. The sole thing that sets him apart is that he invents a time machine and travels into the far future. The fact that the time machine is an incidental mechanism to the purpose of the book becomes quite clear when you realise just how little interest is shown in it throughout. What this book is really about is a comment on our society, ethics and norms. It does that nicely; charmingly, even, in some places. The central characters are interesting and likable as you’d expect from Michael J Sullivan, but the whole story-line has them looking impossible naive and two-dimensional – they end up really just being vehicles for the commentary.
I was constantly put in mind of HG Wells and later-Heinlein as I read the book and not really in a good way – perhaps the long, sort of apologetic author-preface set the scene for those thoughts and certainly I remain at a loss as to why the book’s editor let the preface stand. Ultimately it seemed that story, character and place all took a bit of a back-seat to a polemic.
This wasn’t the book I would have hoped for from an accomplished author like Sullivan and I can’t really recommend it. Others, however, have loved it and it is available in the usual places.