"This is the way the world ends; not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door."
Nineteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way - not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.
Amanda Hocking. If you do not already know the name then be prepared to find out very soon as it seems she is about to become a household name with some massive deals currently in the works. She is a 26 year old author who wrote a bunch of books while working as a caregiver and then self-published ten of those books as e-books in quick succession. The response was unprecedented, Hocking's books rocketed up every chart around the globe as the sales started rolling in. A million sales later Hocking has become a multi-millionaire being courted by every major publishing house in the industry. I knew that I had to find out what all the fuss is about Amanda Hocking so I downloaded Hollowland, a story about a young girl trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. By the end I was feeling reasonably satisfied with the story that had been told, but I was left with lot of mixed feelings, particularly with regards to the overall quality of the production.
Let me start by talking about the plot, the real strength of this story. Hollowland may be a survival story set during the zombie apocalypse but Hocking has introduced a very clever twist that really changes the dynamics of a zombie survival story. Nobody is really concerned about finding a cure and trying to save the planet because the zombies are not immortal undead creatures, they are just suffering from a virus that should die out if everyone gets locked away into quarantined compounds. The zombies, faced with their own extinction, start conducting coordinated attacks on the compounds with dramatic results but at no point is there a big panic about finding a cure because people are still convinced that the zombies will run out of people to infect and the apocalypse will be all over. Being free from the burden of trying to save the world allows Hocking to really focus on the other elements of the plot and and tell a story about love and family that you just don't get in traditional zombie stories.
The characters may be unoriginal but they are solid characters with their own strengths and flaws and they are a good match for the plot that has been established. Remy is a driven young girl who survives because she is strong, capable, and never lets her guard down. Lazlo is the happy-go-lucky rock star who has only survived by being very lucky, and all he wants is for Remy to drop her guard and be human once in a while. Harlow and Blue play the sidekick role very well and have their own interesting sub-plots that may get fleshed out in future books, and from now on I will always judge zombie stories based on whether or not the characters have their own zombie killing lion. No lion, no good. These characters work very well together with complex and completely believable relationships that I think have been well constructed.
While the plot and the characters may have been triumphs, the writing really leaves a lot to be desired. I do not like to talk about spelling and grammar because in the context of reviewing a story it doesn't really add much value, but in this case I have to comment. The ebook I downloaded was riddled with typos and formatting errors, often disrupting the immersion and really making this book hard to read. Very basic grammatical errors littered throughout the book were quite annoying to read, but the substantial grammatical errors had me rereading lines multiple times, scratching my head trying to figure out what is going on and what the author is trying to tell me.
In terms of writing style, the story is told from the 1st-person POV and Hocking does a pretty good job at telling story at the right pace while getting all the important information across to the reader in an appropriate timeframe. The big challenge with 1st-person POV is trying to keep a secret from the reader that the POV character has an intimate knowledge of, and this is an area where Hocking gets somewhat exposed. Some of Remy's actions at the start of the book make sense when you are under the impression that Remy has no idea what is going on, but when you find out at the end of the book that Remy knew exactly what was going on, it contradicts many of her actions from the start of the book and undermines her as a character. This is something that even the best authors struggle to get right, but I get the feeling that if Hocking had given this book to a couple of independent test readers before release then this issue along with all of the spelling and grammar issues would have been largely resolved.
I dont know what to feel about this book. I really liked the story and I liked the characters but I found it hard to actually enjoy the experience. I want to read future books in this series and other series by Hocking because she has a lot of great ideas that are fun to read, but I am hesitant purely because of the standard of the writing. Reading a book should not be hard and in this case the poor writing has turned what should have been a great zombie story into a mediocre one.
Review by Ryan Lawler
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