Book Review – The Hollow City by Dan Wells

★★★★★ 5 Stars

Five solid preternatural, electro-plasmic stars!

Like all the best books, I found this by pure happy accident. I was beginning to think no one had ever written a book like this – it is a perfect concoction of occult horror, psychological suspense and the creepy, astringent chill of a hospital ward.
All of this is wrapped up into one ominous, blood-tinged package, sitting quietly in the gutter and the suspense, patiently waiting to unravel itself into something nightmarish.

The Hollow City (not to be confused with the Ransom Riggs novel, though they are in a similar genre) is sharp and fast-paced, and it’s pretty much perfect in my eyes, but I’m going to acknowledge both its faults and merits anyway for the sake of review.

For faults, Michael, while being sympathetic and a good subversion of stereotypes about schizophrenic characters, still is a bit… incomplete of a character. There is still a lot about his personality and his life that is unknown. The same goes for his girlfriend – while likeable enough, is still kind of an enigma by the end. Also, this book could probably have done well with a sequel, rather than the bizarre, vaguely David Lynch-ian ending we got. Though if you like that kind of ending…

For merits, the sheer unsettling, dreamlike quality the whole book has. Michael is often unaware or can’t remember what he is done, and in the writing you can feel his sense of dread and panic that he might’ve done or seen something horrible, but he has no way of knowing other that what the doctors tell him – and he suspects they are lying.
This constant uncertainty mixed with weird, supernatural hallucinations he begins to have – people with a blank expanse of skin for a face, giant seething maggots showing up in his hospital room – really conveys a feeling of going mad, or being in a nightmare stuck on loop. Plot and writing wise it is a 10/10, the characterization is good but leaves some to be desired. Like I said, a sequel or perhaps an expansion would’ve been great.

Anyway, I infinitely recommend if you like psychological thrillers. While being very creepy, there’s not a lot of intense violence, most of the horror is internal and suspense-driven.

General Score – 5/5

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