The Hollow City is a standalone book by Dan Wells, author of the I Am Not A Serial Killer. I really enjoyed his Serial Killer trilogy as well as the first book in his YA series (Partials) so I was really looking forward to this book when it came out. On with the review.
Horror, Thriller (which a heavy emphasis on the Psychology of the main character)
The main character of the book is Michael Shipman, a young man with paranoid schizophrenia. The book is told entirely through his viewpoint, and because he has schizophrenia, you go through the entire book not knowing what is real and what is a figment of his imagination. I loved the way his character was written. All of the other characters in the book were also interesting, but you don’t really want to get too attached to them because you don’t know who is real and who is a hallucination.
Present day Chicago.
Michael lives his life in constant fear of everything around him. He is obsessed by the thought that he is being followed, and he believes that every electronic device is capable of tracking his whereabouts. Along with this, he sees some very strange creatures following him all the time. But what happens when you realize that some of the monsters following you are real? Who can you trust when you can’t trust your own mind? The book is the story of Michael trying to figure out what’s really going on in his life.
This is something that I rail about every time I read a book where the psychology of a character is a central plot point. But in this case, I get to praise the book, because Wells gets the psychology right. He accurately describes schizophrenia in the book, and even has a scene where he calls out most of modern society’s view of schizophrenia. It is not multiple personalities, it is your brain responding to stimuli that don’t exist. I will readily recommend this book on that item alone, because he took the time to get the psychology right in the book. He even researched some of the medication used and the side effects that occur as a result of the medication. The psychology was very well done.
And now to discuss the actual story, I loved it. It’s very dark, mysterious, and you never know what is real. A common topic when talking about books is the concept of the unreliable narrator. I don’t normally use the term because I think that the narrator cannot truly be unreliable. They may not be describing the world as it actually is, but they’re describing it how they experience it, which makes their description real because they are affected by what they experience. This book is the best example of a truly unreliable narrator that I’ve ever seen. When the narrator’s mind isn’t sure of what’s real, how can you be sure as the reader? My one complaint about the story is that the ending isn’t as good as the rest of the book. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but the beginning of the book is so well written that I don’t know if any ending could have been as effective.
A very unique, very dark story that gets the psychology right. I loved this book.