Hollow World is a standalone time traveling sci-fi with a utopian-esque world and the hapless modern man that gets thrown into it. (Kind of like a more aware Time Machine. And less depressing.)
Maybe if Pax were a woman he might have offered a hug or something, but Pax wasn’t a woman. The best a man could do for another man was pretend not to see. Only Pax wasn’t a man either.
Ellis was lost.
(Truthfully, Ellis is often lost.)
Ellis Rogers, just diagnosed with a terminal illness and told he has, at best, a year to live, does what any normal, sane, married man in his fifties would: he hops into the time machine he’s been building in his garage. Even knowing it’s going be a one-way trip, he’s hoping for a cure for his illness and sets the device for two hundred years in the future.
When he steps out of the milk-crate-and-minivan-cannibalized time machine, he’s surprised (and a little disappointed) to find himself not in a bustling metropolis of flying cars and gravity defying buildings, but an old-growth forest. Where Detroit used to be. Let’s just say that nothing about the future is quite what Ellis expected.
And the book isn’t quite what I expected. Even knowing the author’s other (fantasy) work, I still half expected a book that was dry and ponderous and, well, privileged. I can’t help it, I am ashamed to say that I expected Ellis to be ‘privileged cis white man 1.0’ – pretty much like the one from the original time machine story. And like Warren. *shudder* Oh, so much like Warren.
Ellis, actually, handles the whole thing – drastically changed earth, massively changed human culture – rather well. He’s a curious sort. He wanted to be an astronaut when he was younger and I can’t help but think that prepared him at least a little. He’s likable because he doesn’t dismiss the world. He doesn’t understand it, he misses his world, but he’s not going to say his world was better. He faces everything with a healthy dose of curiosity and – even if I was yelling at him for one awful decision he made – I liked him because of all that.
The other characters were a mix. Pax is absolutely wonderful, without a doubt my favorite in the book and definitely one of my favorite this year. The others weren’t so likable to me, but there was only one character I truly hated. (The evil, creepy villain, because yes, this story does have a villain that I wanted to kill in the worst way possible.)
I don’t really want to get into the world building because I don’t want to give out spoilers. Let’s just say that it was interesting and very believably handled. I could see the things happen that did, and I could see humanity reacting the way they did. Also, I have to add that the populace still speaks English. It’s a little changed, but I was so thrilled that there wasn’t a translation phase where we were left at sea.
This book takes a look at gender, love and individuality (and religion to an extent) and how much they matter – or don’t – in the grand scheme of being human. I’d tell you more, but, really, this is a book that it’s best to just go along with the ride and not know where it’ll end up.
Content Advisory: Some language/curse words. There’s a couple moderately described scenes of violence, a clinical description of a dead body and mentioned off-screen consensual maiming/body modifications. And a truly vile villain. Trust me, they deserve a special advisory all for themselves because I can’t imagine anyone that they won’t insult.