The Hollow City by Dan Wells
I'm a big fan of Dan Wells. I loved the John Cleaver series for all its psychological terrorising, and while I enjoyed Partials, I actually missed having Wells play with my mind. So when I heard that Wells was returning to supernatural psychological thrillers with The Hollow City I became very excited and set aside a bunch of time to make this book a priority. And I'm glad that I did - The Hollow City lived up to my expectations, bending my perception of reality to the point where I could never be sure of what was real and what was a hallucination.
The story follows Michael Shipman, a man with a history of mental health issues who was found huddling under a bridge. His delusions have progressed past what is manageable and his psychiatrist has not choice but to upgrade his condition from anxiety to schizophrenia and put him in the care of the local mental hospital. To top it all off, there is a serial killer on the loose and all the victims are connected to Michael in some way, shape or form. Not a good day for Michael. The problem for Michael is that while many of the monsters he sees are just a symptom of his condition, some of the monsters he sees are real, and they have a plan.
This is a pretty cool story, a reasonably simple story, but one that relies on the unreliability of the main character to add in the layers of complexity. The plot is not the driver in this story, sitting itself firmly in backseat while the focus is put on Michael and his struggle to determine what is real and what isn't. There is a really cool supernatural conspiracy going on in the background, but the problem is that Michael's struggles are so interesting for so much of the book that I found myself not really caring about the supernatural conspiracy. Sure it was an important component, it provided an electric beginning to the story and there were some important linkages between this conspiracy and Michael's mental health, but I felt that it lost its presence during the middle of the story and its resolution just felt like a really solid bookend rather than the mind explosion I was expecting. Don't get me wrong, the ending is fantastic and works on many different levels, but I think that the nature of this story where so many weird realities could have been the true reality meant that I couldn't reliably figure out any of the big revelations - my initial reaction on the big reveal ended up being "oh cool, now I have a point of reference to start figuring it all out" rather than "What the crap just happened?!" or "I knew it!".
The characterisation, as it was in the John Cleaver series, is the strongest part of this book. Wells has obviously done a lot of research and he goes to a lot of effort early on to define schizophrenia so he can make the best use of it as part of Michael's character profile. Michael is angry at being locked up, he is frustrated that noone will believe that he sees faceless men, he is in denial for a long time that he has schizophrenia, and once he accepts that he has schizophrenia he is scared that he will not be able to tell the difference between what monsters are made up and what monsters are real. I really felt for Michael during this book, the way he was treated like a baby despite not having any degredation in his thinking and reasoning, the way he would lash out at visions only to hurt the people trying to help him, and the way that by the end he had no idea whether any of the people he had known throughout his life were real or just figments of his imagination. There are plenty of other characters in this story too, characters that Wells spends a lot of time building up to be very reliable at the start of the book so that later he could start introducing inconsistencies and make Michael question his sanity even further.
The Hollow City is an excellent addition from Wells, a story that is not trying to exploit mental illness as a plot device, but rather tries to educate readers about what schizophrenia really is and how scary it is for people who have to live with it. If you haven't read anything by Wells before, or if you aren't a fan of his Young Adult works, then you should definitely give this book a try as I believe it showcases what he does best - coming up with awesome characters and torturing them psychologically.
This The Hollow City book review was written by Ryan Lawler
Have you read The Hollow City?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Hollow City reader reviews
9.1/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Never Knew Another
Fugitive Rachel Nolander is a newcomer to the city of Dogsland, where the rich throw parties and the poor just do whatever they can to scrape by. Supported by her brother D...
Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu
Mercedes M Yardley
Her mama always said she was special. His daddy called him a demon. But even monsters can fall in love. Montessa Tovar is walking home alone when she is abducted by Lu, a s...
A flash of light and Detective Joe Dante steps through. No longer on the cobblestone streets of 1961 Boston, Joe finds himself in a horrifying new world-Hell itself. Joe wa...
The Shadow Crucible
Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All ...
The Dirty Streets of Heaven
Sure, he takes the occasional trip to Heaven, but his job as an advocate - arguing the fate of the recently deceased - keeps him pretty busy on Earth, and he's more tha...
Life sucks and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth tha...
Miriam Black knows when you will die. Still in her early twenties, she's foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. ...
Deadbeat - Makes You Stronger
Max and Tom are old, old friends, who used to be actors. Tom now owns a jazz nightclub called Deadbeat which, as well as being their source of income, is also something of ...
The Year of the Ladybird
It is the summer of 1976, the hottest since records began and a young man leaves behind his student days and learns how to grow up. A first job in a holiday camp beckons. B...
The Clown Service
The Department: Section 37 Station Office, Wood Green. The Boss: August Shining, an ex-Cambridge, Cold War-era spy. The Mission: Charged with protecting Great Britain and i...
Nameless: The Darkness Comes
Mercedes M Yardley
Luna Masterson sees demons. She has been dealing with the demonic all her life, so when her brother gets tangled up with a demon named Sparkles, ‘Luna the Lunatic&rsq...
So welcome to Midnight where nothing is what it seems and not knowing everything about your neighbours may end up getting you killed. I enjoy this kind of story, a mystery/...
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcend...
They enslaved humanity three thousand years ago. Tall, strong, perfect, superhuman and near immortal they rule from their glittering palaces in the eternal city in the cent...
Half-devil and miles from anything resembling heroic, perpetual underdog Frank "Triggaltheron" Trigg is the last man standing against Armageddon. As the favorite ...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
- Recommended contemporary / urban fantasy books/series
- Recommended books/series featuring angels and demons
Best of 2016
Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends s...
This Savage Song
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as r...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now... well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas. There’s a strange woman called The Chronometrist who will not leave her alone. Garbled warnings from bizarre creatures keep her up at night. And there’s a time portal in the keg room of the bar where she works. Soon, Hallie is tumbling through...
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his...
The Fifth Empire of Man
Rob J Hayes
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself Ki...
Ian C Esslemont
After the disappointments of Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To ...
Age of Swords
Michael J Sullivan
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...