The Hollow City by Dan Wells
Some of my favorite works in both prose and film feature tellers whose veracity is questionable. My favorite novelist, Gene Wolfe, is very fond of unreliable narrators, and in the film The Usual Suspects, another favorite, the truth of the entire plot as related is, in fact, suspect. Unreliable narrators can be entertaining or frustrating, challenging or impenetrable. They can be liars, idiots, or madmen. Dan Wells’ The Hollow City features the last sort.
Michael Shipman is unemployed, on the run from the authorities and mysterious faceless men, and has a wicked case of paranoid schizophrenia (at least that’s what everyone keeps telling him. Michael is not always so sure.) What does become obvious from the outset of the novel is that there’s some connection between him and the elusive Red Line Killer, a murderer that carves the faces off of his victims.
From the first chapter of the book, when federal agents witness a murder victim using superpowers before his grisly end, it’s obvious there is more to the strange events of the novel than just Michael’s mental illness. The paranormal trappings of the story are perhaps its greatest weakness. I think a more grounded mystery/thriller featuring a protagonist who couldn’t rely on his own perceptions would have been more interesting.
Overall, The Hollow City is a fun if fairly light read. It features some memorable characters, and striking descriptions, and would, perhaps, be a good choice for fans of young adult thrillers.
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