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The Hollow City

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Dan Wells won instant acclaim for his three-novel debut about the adventures of John Wayne Cleaver, a heroic young man who is a potential serial killer. All who read the trilogy were struck by the distinctive and believable voice Wells created for John.

Now he returns with another innovative thriller told in a very different, equally unique voice. A voice that comes to us from the realm of madness.

Michael Shipman is paranoid schizophrenic; he suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and complex fantasies of persecution and horror. That’s bad enough. But what can he do if some of the monsters he sees turn out to be real?

Who can you trust if you can't even trust yourself? The Hollow City is a mesmerizing journey into madness, where the greatest enemy of all is your own mind.

334 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 1, 2011

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About the author

Dan Wells

59 books5,655 followers
Dan Wells is a thriller and science fiction writer. Born in Utah, he spent his early years reading and writing. He is he author of the Partials series (Partials, Isolation, Fragments, and Ruins), the John Cleaver series (I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don't Want To Kill You), and a few others (The Hollow City, A Night of Blacker Darkness, etc). He was a Campbell nomine for best new writer, and has won a Hugo award for his work on the podcast Writing Excuses; the podcast is also a multiple winner of the Parsec Award.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 352 reviews
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
December 10, 2020
Michael Shipman is a paranoid schizophrenic. Or is he?

After reading (and re-reading) Well's I am not a serial killer, I knew that I had to read anything this guy ever wrote.

And so, here we are.

We are thrust into the crazy (or not so crazy?) world of our unreliable narrator - Michael Shipman. Ever since he was a teenager, Michael has slowly descended into his on schizophrenic world. He's long since lost the respect of his friends, family and father. And his latest bout has brought him right to the edge only...there are certain things about his delusions that the real world seems to be noticing as well.

Certain weird and unworldly things.

Things that should be easy to dismiss if they weren't real.

Could they be real?

We are taken for a ride as Michael struggles with what is real and what is in his head compared to what seems-crazy-but-actually-is-real. At times, the back and forth got to be a little bit much but that evened out towards the end.

Overall, very enjoyable!

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews473 followers
July 6, 2012
Dan Wells is my hero.

In his debut novel, I Am Not A Serial Killer (review), he takes on a protagonist who's a teenage sociopath. In The Hollow City, his protagonist is a schizophrenic mental patient. Both get you into their heads and both make you feel like you understand people a little bit better. Both are compulsively readable and impossible to put down.

I gotta hand it to Wells, that's quite a way to start a writing career.

The Hollow City is like Memento goes to the nuthouse. Not that it's told in a similar format, such as the whole starting at the end and ending at the beginning, but because your narrator is that unreliable. You really want to trust Michael Shipman, you want to believe that the "Faceless" men are chasing him, that all electronic devices are sending out signals and reporting on him (not just cell phones, but TV's and watches too), that the people he's talking to are all more than figments of his imagination.

But the facts are all there. Not only is he actually in a mental institution where all the doctors have him pegged as a schizophrenic, but he's got the typical narcissism that puts such a person at the center of every conspiracy that ever existed. Wells has obviously done a lot of research here, but it's not bogged down in any technical jargon.

And yet you can't help but think he might have something, he might be telling the truth about everything. What if he is? And then we find out that something or someone else Michael's seeing isn't real (or is it?). That wouldn't be annoying if I did that after every sentence would it?

The Hollow City is quite the trip.

Adding to the conspiracy and schizophrenia we see in Michael we are introduced to a mystery regarding a killer that's on the loose. In fact, the prologue takes us to one of a string of murders by one known as the Red Line Killer who's been not only killing people, but mutilating their faces. With no other leads, you begin to see why the police might be looking to Michael, a schizophrenic who's running away from "Faceless" men.

The jury's still out on the ending, though. I'm not sure whether I thought it was great or just so so. I liked it well enough, I think I just had too many other possibilities in my head that I was let down a bit. It's definitely fitting and the more I think about it, the more I like it. Given what happens at the end, it's actually a pretty cool idea ... and I'll stop there.

The Hollow City is pegged as science fiction, at least it's being marketed as such, but that only plays a minor part. I'm actually surprised they aren't marketing it as more mainstream, since most in the publishing biz try to distance themselves from the anathema that is SFF. So, cheers to Tor I guess. :)

I won't go into anymore detail for fear of ruining anything, I've done enough I'm sure. Let's just say that you should read The Hollow City if only to see this unique perspective, but also to get an incredibly unique experience. And once you're reading it, you won't be able to stop, I mean, it's Dan Wells.

4 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended!)
Profile Image for Cheryl.
939 reviews
September 13, 2016
Michael Shipman wakes up in a hospital bed, not knowing why he's there and unable to remember the past two weeks. The doctors tell him he was brought in after falling from a window. Checking his medical files, they see he also has paranoid schizophrenia. After talking with him, they begin to link Michael with the Red Line serial killings. Michael knows he's innocent and instead feels himself to be in mortal danger from the Faceless Men. Is he guilty or innocent? Is what he sees real or a hallucination?

This was a quick, intriguing read that had me guessing what was really true the entire time. The story is told from Michael's point of view, and we're only given the information that he has. (A very unreliable narrator.) To say too much about this book might spoil the plot. Those open to going where the story takes you will enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Andrew.
Author 23 books51 followers
July 5, 2012
“How much do you know about me?” I demand. “What’s really going on here?”

“I…,” she stumbles over her words, brow furrowed in confusion. “I don’t know anything, why? Are you a member of the Children?”

“The Children of the Earth are a murder cult,” I say. “They kidnapped my mother while she was pregnant, and when I was born they killed her. I wouldn’t associate with them for anything. I’d kill them first.”

Her face goes white. “You did not just say that.”

“What do the Children of the Earth have to do with the Red Line Killer?”

She sucks in a breath. “Almost all of the victims have been members.”

I curse.

“Someone is hunting down the Children of the Earth and cutting off their faces,” she says. “Someone who hates them as much as you do.”


Michael Shipman is a paranoid schizophrenic accused of being a serial killer in Dan Well’s newest work, The Hollow City. Suspected of being the cult member-mutilating Red Line Killer (a name that, once revealed, will give any hockey lover reason to grin), Michael is fighting to understand the nature of his illness, and, more importantly, the division between what is real in his life and what is fiction. With doctors, nurses, FBI agents, and faceless men and women stalking him, tormenting him, and threatening his very existence, Michael is backed into a series of corners with an ever-increasing dosage of medication tight-roping his mind between clarity—seeing the hallucinations for what they are and learning to parse them from the physical world—and confusion.

Told from the first-person, Wells does an admirable job placing the reader in a mind not entirely whole. Michael’s confusion isn’t played for cheap tricks and slights of hand. Instead, Wells uses cascading tactics, layering the possibilities of Michael’s psychosis—are his reactions to cell phones and television signals psychosomatic? Or does he actually have something foreign implanted in his brain triggering vicious nosebleeds and violent outbursts whenever a cell phone so much as vibrates in his vicinity?—on top of one another to upset any sense of narrative stability. We keep guessing alongside him, not because of loose threads or unnecessary red herrings, but because, deprived of his medication and thwarted with repeated troublesome stimulus, Michael, too, is kept guessing. He is continuously unsure of even the antagonists in his life, as his mind works to both enforce and destroy the illusions it has crafted.

The Hollow City is a fast-paced mystery with an unconventional perspective that, more often than not, works. Michael is a great sympathetic character; his relationships—both real and hallucinatory—are tragic, their true natures unknowable and without ground to stand on. The further his layers of psychosis are peeled back, the more unfortunate his life becomes, until there is seemingly very little left to salvage.

Though thoroughly enjoyable, not everything is right and rosy in The Hollow City. While I won’t spoil anything here, I was somewhat disappointed by the final series of events. Michael remains an interesting character right until the end, but the reasons… the machinations behind his psychosis, felt too far removed from what had been previously established. As the story turns away from chemical imbalances in the brain to a straight-up science fiction/supernatural conclusion, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d been cheated. While there are a few narrative hooks along the way to give purpose and premeditation to the Deus Ex Machina of the finale, the end result feels a bit too mundane and simplistic for all that came before. When all is said and done, the push and pull of Michael’s mental and emotional journey feels too readily abandoned for what amounts to an X-Files-style U-turn that, unfortunately, does not feel as if it has been earned.

I still recommend The Hollow City. My problems with its ending aside, Michael Shipman is an intriguing, original character, and Wells does an excellent job of constructing a narrative around Michael’s schizophrenia, offering a point-of-view not often seen. The Hollow City is a fun page-turner, perfect for the beach.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 29 books5,627 followers
September 9, 2012
Something is terribly, wonderfully wrong with Dan Wells. His superb writing skills and brilliant eye for story are all tangled up in a twisted mind that produces books of breathtaking genius that will leave you curled up on the floor sucking your thumb and crying for your mommy.

Within a chapter of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, I adored John Cleaver and was terrified for him, because I didn't want him to grow up to be a serial killer. And within a chapter of THE HOLLOW CITY, I was sick for Michael Shipman. Michael is schizophrenic, and both he and the reader have no idea where his reality ends and his madness begins. Are the Faceless Men real? Are the doctors? Nurses? Is he even in mental hospital? Is he a killer? Is he actually right about being watched? But who would be watching him, and why? And what does it all have to do with The Red Line Killer?

Your brain will almost go numb trying to take it all in. It's nail-bitingly suspenseful, gut-wrenching, and miraculous. And if you're a writer, you'll be jealous of Dan for the rest of your life.
Profile Image for Amy.
587 reviews28 followers
April 3, 2016
I am so conflicted about how to rate this book. The first 75% of this book was amazing. I couldn't put it down and was amazed at how real the main character felt. The last 25% felt a little lame to me - it was as if the book turned into a strange X-Files episode.
Profile Image for ᒪᗴᗩᕼ .
1,492 reviews146 followers
June 22, 2021
❐ Overall Rating 2¾⭐ | Narration 😀 = Good
❐ Narrated by Roger Wayne
❐ Listening Length: 8H 17M
❐ Psychological Thriller
❐ Inside the head of a Schizophrenic
❐ Weird AF

I think listening to this made me feel a little crazy. Overall, I think the craziness just got to be too much for me to follow what was actually going on. The ending went into some out-there kind of crazy...but hey, it was unpredictable.

🅒🅐🅦🅟🅘🅛🅔 4.79/❿
🅒haracters → 4
🅐tmosphere → 5
🅦riting → 5.5
🅟lot → 5
🅘ntrigue → 4.5
🅛ogic → 5
🅔njoyment → 4.5
Profile Image for Kovaxka.
531 reviews27 followers
June 30, 2021
A John Wayne Cleaver-sorozatot nem tudtam végigolvasni, ez a könyv is elvesztett a felénél. Pedig nagyon jól indult! Amikor viszont a hallucináció-skizofrénia komplex sci-fibe fordult, már sem követni, sem értelmezni nem tudtam. A vége meg kifejezetten gyenge kliséözön. Van fantáziája a szerzőnek, de nem nekem ír, asszem.
Profile Image for Gavin Daphne King.
16 reviews2 followers
September 9, 2012
I can't even really sort out my feelings for this book.

I can't think of anything bad to say about it other than "this isn't really my genre," so I'm giving it five stars. For the story that Dan Wells was trying to tell, this is the best possible way I can think of to tell it. It's not really a short book but I read it in one day; it's very self-contained like that. The only thing is... I don't really know who this book is FOR. It's not quite horror but it's not quite urban fantasy. It's really more of an examination of schizophrenia than anything.

Dan Wells' writing is fantastic, falling in the magic zone of poetic enough to be evocative without being so beautiful it pulls you out of the story. (Well, okay, there were a couple of moments. Like the cash register sitting like a toad. That was weird.)

I don't really know what else to say. Um, you should read this? Yeah. You should read this.
Profile Image for Cheyenne DeBorde.
Author 1 book6 followers
January 4, 2014
I’m not really sure what the genre is for this, but I do have experience with this author’s writing and that’s what lead me to this book. His John Clever series with I Am Not a Serial Killer was really amazing and I loved it! But this was a letdown in comparison to the character development and story execution of that series. Not that I didn’t give this book its own fighting chance on its own two legs. In fact, I would have left the book sooner if it wasn’t for Dan Well’s good reputation.

The narrative was a little interesting, but it was very dodgy and hard to follow at first. I think this was intentional, but even still, it took me a little while to get a hold on where I was and what was going on; and that wasn’t fun at all.

The characters did have a new… shine, to their personality that made they stand out a little. But it was limited. The rest of the time, they were predictable and, frankly, annoying. I grimaced at every character in the book because they all pissed me off. Not their actions, mind you, but them themselves. They felt superficial and shallow in character development; as in if they weren’t doing it that exact moment, it wasn’t apart of their character. There was absolutely no ‘iceberg’ effect in the story at all, which made the characters and plot seem fragile – and it’d break if I tested it too much. And when forced to take everything at face value, I quickly started to grow a resentment for the characters. Which was disappointing, considering the author did so well in developing solid characters in his other series.

I was expecting more, especially since the protagonist had mental illness and that was a big part of the story – the author’s had a good history of writing that. It seemed very trope-ish and a carbon copy of the way that illness has been portrayed a million times. Paranoia does mean you see a monster in every shadow, but it can also spread deeper than that. I felt it could have been expanded on to give a different look at the case and make it a little more unique to the character in a way that would leave a print on the reader.

And the others were very one dimensional and easily predictable; to a complete fault. I knew what they were going to do next and I was grimacing before they ever did it.

This was the character’s only saving grace. I will say that the character voices did have a ‘new’ and ‘shiny’ appeal to them, in the sense that they were a different tone than I had seen a lot. But it didn’t last long, and one strand of irrelevant dialogue not going as I expected doesn’t save the whole book.

The setting of modern day was okay, I guess. Not much too it; although the few real life references were interesting. On one hand, I don’t like it when real life stuff like ‘Fox News’ is referenced. But on the same hand, sometimes it does help to strengthen the setting. I feel neutral on the setting.

Kind of bland, and there was a shortage of rich words to make up for it. Most of the descriptions were short and to-the-point, which was really disappointing for me, because I’m an obsessive lover of beautiful language and details. I expect that of the YA genre, but there wasn’t much to make me suffer through it.

Pretty slow. There were points where it picked up, but the actions seemed so surface level and non engaging that it wasn’t much of an improvement. It went slow enough that after my obligatory 50 pages of charity I give to all books that are boring me, I started skipping pages. The point I start doing that is usually the beginning of the imminent end.

From what I read, I wasn’t fond of it. It sounded like it had a lot of potential, but that one idea for the plot, as seen in the summery, just wasn’t strong enough to exploited enough to work over 300 pages and low points of info dumping. The prologue was actually very good and interested me, but I don’t feel like it was enough to make me stick around.

It had a chance, but I feel the execution wasn’t very good. I didn’t read the whole book and ended up putting it down after skipping through all the main points. It looked like there were some promising moments, but there was just too much to wade through to get there. I wonder if I had stuck it out, if there would be enough forced attachment to the characters to make me feel a greater level of emotion at the big plot points. But I couldn’t bring myself to continue. The author, from my previous experience, is really good about building up suspension and using tension well, even if it takes time. But in the other books, there was the plot and characters there to entertain you and carry you to that point. This book lacked that, I feel, so I didn’t wait around.

Did I like the book or not:
I give it a rating of 2, because if I had nothing else to do but sit in a room with this book, I might take the time to read through and find out if it was good, but just took a long time to get there. But with so many other good ones, I didn’t take the time. So I’m at a draw. It’s not awful, but it’s not really ‘good’ either. I’m neutral, with a mild side of disappointed.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 18 books431 followers
July 31, 2014
The Hollow City is a fascinating book that readers will devour. It’s equal parts psychological thriller and science fiction. While it does lose some of it’s pull after the halfway mark, and the ending leaves a little to be desired, at the end of the day this is an unforgettable book. Wells is a brilliant writer who somehow manages to take something that could easily be incredibly complex and makes it amazingly accessible. The Hollow City, despite my quibbles, is a highly recommended read.

Read my full review here:

Profile Image for Fernanda Romo.
76 reviews22 followers
July 26, 2016
¿Cómo es que Dan Wells hace para escribir protagonistas tan interesantes?
El libro fue raro, ni siquiera sé cómo explicar lo que pasé con este libro, este libro me mantuvo con estrés e intriga el 75% del camino, ya que nos habla de nuestro protagonista que sufre de esquizofrenia y el tratar de entender su mente fue lo más raro e inexplicable, me confundía porque había un punto donde no sabias que era real y que no.
El fallo del libro cae en el final de todo, el 25% fue confusión total y me dejó con muchas dudas, fue algo decepcionante.
Profile Image for Eric Allen.
Author 3 books732 followers
August 3, 2012
The Hollow City
By Dan Wells

A Review by Eric Allen

Dan Wells has been a busy man this past year. This is the third book he's published in the last 12 months, and he has another short novel to be released in August as a prequel to Partials. I have been a big fan of his ever since the release of his first book, I Am Not a Serial Killer. He is an excellent writer, that keeps getting better with every book that he puts out. And he sure does crank them out.

The Hollow City follows Michael Shipman, a paranoid schizophrenic who has recently been found living under a bridge after disappearing for two weeks that he is completely unable to remember. When he begins speaking of his delusions and hallucinations to the doctors, they draw connections between him and a serial killer. These connections are strengthened by the fact that all of the victims have been members of the cult that murdered his mother. He is obviously suffering from delusions and has had a history of them, so he is taken to the mental hospital where he is set on a regiment of drugs to counteract his schizophrenia.

The majority of the book deals with Michael taking his drugs, and coming to realize that his hallucinations are just that, hallucinations. However, when he starts to see things even with the drugs in full effect, he makes his escape, certain that there is some sort of conspiracy out to get him. "I may be just a hallucination," one of his delusions tells him, "but that doesn't mean I'm not real."

The Good? Dan Wells did his research. I know that seems like such a simple and basic thing to compliment someone on, but you've read books, right? You've seen for yourself how little most writers actually do it. Wells researched schizophrenia, what it is, what it does to a person, common misconceptions about it, what medications are used to treat it, how they work, why they work, how long it takes them to work, what their side effects are, what it's like to have your world clarified by these drugs, etc. He poured a lot of time and effort into compiling this data, and it really shows in how authentic everything feels in the book. Not only did he research the subject matter quite well, he also continues to write fantastically. He has real talent with words, and with weaving a story. There's more to writing a book than simply writing well, or simply having a good story to tell. It takes equal parts of both, with many other factors that a lot of writers don't seem to understand. Patrick Rothfuss comes to mind. He writes beautifully, but gets every single other aspect of telling a story wrong.

Despite the fact that I typically do not enjoy books written in first person, nor do I really enjoy the mystery genre too terribly much, Dan Wells has such a way with telling a story that I can't stop reading it despite not being in a format that I enjoy, or in a genre I typically read. In my book, that is the mark of an excellent writer and storyteller.

The Bad? I have two small complaints with this book, and neither of them are really much more than nitpicks. The first is that the book is written in First Person Present Tense. I ranted quite a bit about why I dislike this perspective in books during my reviews of The Hunger Games if you care to read them, so I'll not rant about it terribly much here. I just don't like the style. It makes me feel as though the author is talking down to me, treating me like I'm not smart enough to follow what's going on.

The second small issue I have with The Hollow City is that Michael is not exactly a very interesting character. His delusions are interesting. His hallucinations are interesting. He, himself, is rather bland, boring, and not very likeable. This is the HERO of the story. The person I'm supposed to most readily identify with and cheer for. He spends the entire book ranting, raving, cowering and complaining. I found him more annoying than sympathetic, to be honest. Everything happening around and to him was very well pieced together, but him, at the heart of it all, was really rather bland and uninteresting. Wells can take an unlikeable person and make him so interesting that you don't care how crazy or evil he might be, Check out I Am Not a Serial Killer for a great example. He didn't do so well in doing so here. I found Michael to be almost unbearably whiny and rather stupid on top of it, making obvious mistakes as though he's following a script rather than acting on his own.

In conclusion, Dan Wells continues to be one of my favorite writers, and I hope to read many more of his books in the future. This book was well written, well researched, and it had a truly surprising plot twist near the end. Despite being written in a perspective I usually dislike, and being about a character that was a little uninteresting when all is said and done, I found it hard to put down. I give this book four stars, because while it was excellent and excellently written, the character of Michael could have used a little more work to make him more likeable and sympathetic to the reader.

Check out my other reviews.
Profile Image for Kelcey Murdoch.
126 reviews2 followers
March 12, 2018
I couldn’t put this book down, but I don’t think I loved it. I was frustrated with the way the author portrayed medical professionals. I find it hard to believe that a good medical doctor would refer to a person with mental illness as “crazy” in front of the patient while speaking with people from the FBI. There are medically and socially appropriate terms that could have been used to describe Michael. But despite those annoyances, the story drew me in and I stayed up way too late many nights turning pages. But the ending confused me and was a let down. I can’t really go into it without a spoiler, but I did not like how it was resolved in the end and finished more confused that when I started. But I loved the narrative from Michael. It was an interesting idea to never know what was actually happening and what was happening in his head.
Profile Image for Erin.
1,260 reviews19 followers
August 12, 2012
Meh. Michael...I already forgot his last name, has a history of mental illness that has recently been upgraded to include schizophrenia. With no memory of the past two weeks, he finds himself hospitalized in a psych ward and subjected to a greater and greater number of drugs meant to give him relief from his hallucinations (mostly of Faceless Men out to get him) and fear of electronics. Meanwhile, a serial killer dubbed the Red Line Killer is murdering seemingly random people by shooting them multiple times, then peeling their faces off. As Michael comes out of his extreme paranoia, he begins to wonder if he could be the Red Line Killer.

I usually wait a day before writing reviews, but the end of this book was so disappointing that I didn't feel the need to let it sit and resonate. Michael spends a lot of time wondering if he is crazy, and once the drugs do eliminate many of his hallucinations, he realizes that he is, but some of the horrible things he's seen are real, and he still can't remember those two missing weeks. My problem with this is that it goes on way too long. The government planted something in my head, no aliens did, no EVERYONE I meet is part of the conspiracy. The plot moves on while this internal voice moves around and around, finally bringing us to the endgame. Unfortunately, this comes way too late for me to care. What could have been a very interesting ending is given short shrift (even though the font is pretty big - this could have been a longer book). Not my favorite Dan Wells.
Profile Image for Spencer Borup.
327 reviews2 followers
April 20, 2015
I read this because of how much I loved Dan Wells's John Cleaver series. The idea was fascinating--a man with schizophrenia is caught up in a series of murders, trapped in a mental hospital, and realizes that some of the monsters he sees... are real. Great premise. The book read fast, like every thriller should. The characters were great, especially the main character (if your main character is schizophrenic he better be interesting!). The reader not knowing what was real and what was hallucinated is great, but when the narrator starts to question it too... that's the best form of "unreliable narrator" I've experienced. It really reminded me of one of my favorite books of all time, SHUTTER ISLAND by Dennis Lehane.

The one thing that kept me from rating this 5 stars was the ending. I LOVED how the writer really wasn't afraid to go there--put his protagonist into the craziest situation, the deepest hole, that he could create... BUT. You have to be able to believably dig your character back out of that hole, or my suspension of disbelief is shattered. All the plot lines that needed to be tied up in the final scene just felt forced, and at some times, melodramatic. While the end WAS cool and I enjoyed it, I kind of had to stop thinking too hard in order to enjoy it.

Still, great book. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys psychological (and supernatural) thrillers... and for the love of Bob PLEASE read SHUTTER ISLAND too if you haven't.
Profile Image for Stefan.
405 reviews164 followers
July 9, 2012
Michael Shipman, the main character of Dan Wells’ newest novel The Hollow City, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and lives with horrible hallucinations and delusions. He is convinced that Faceless men are following him everywhere. They can monitor him through any electronic device: televisions, mobile phones, even alarm clocks. It’s all part of a Plan that’s been going on for years. Michael doesn’t take the medication his personal psychiatrist prescribes because he isn’t convinced that the doctor isn’t part of the Faceless men’s Plan himself.

But then Michael wakes up in a hospital, with only scattered fragments of the past two weeks’ worth of memories. He soon learns that, in that time, several people have been murdered by a serial killer called the Red Line killer, whose macabre calling card is the way he leaves his victims: he removes all the skin on their faces, making them… Faceless.

Read the entire review on my site Far Beyond Reality!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,619 reviews54 followers
September 8, 2018
Dan Wells's The Hollow City is perhaps the best horror novella ever written. It's a terrifying, disorienting ride through the psychoses of the world's most unreliable narrator, a paranoid schizophrenic who believes faceless men are using technology to try to kill him.

Sounds perfect, right? Except that perfect novella somehow - presumably at the urging of the ghost of Percy Shelley? - ballooned into a 336 page novel that insists on teetering on the edge of committing to its plot until the horror blunts and the reader finds himself exhausted by all the crazy. In small doses, Michael Shipman's struggle with what constitutes reality is electrifying. In large doses, it's Thorazine.

I give full credit to Wells for attempting to pull off such a narrative high-wire act, but keeping the reader trapped inside the head of a paranoid schizophrenic for hours leaves us feeling off-balance and the story itself stumbles once too often before finding its footing toward the end. Top marks for ambition, vision, and sheer ballsiness, but in this particular case less would have been way more.
Profile Image for Terri.
1,354 reviews374 followers
September 4, 2013
Really don't know how to categorize this. It is the story of Michael who is a paranoid schizophrenic who believes technology is monitoring him, faceless men are following him etc.. (something we hear quite a bit from such people). But even if you are paranoid, they still could be out to get you as the saying goes. Only as the story is told through his POV, it is often hard to figure out what is real and what isn't. Which is not only fascinating, but frustrating. This I feel, made me really invested in Michael's struggles to get better and figure out what is happening to him. His life is compounded as well by a series of killings where the victims faces have been surgically removed. Is he guilty, is it connected? This book raises so many questions along the way. As the pieces come together, it climaxes in a very unexpected way.
Profile Image for Jen Walker.
112 reviews5 followers
August 16, 2012
I'm not sure how I feel about this book in total. From the beginning I thought it was a great read, really pulled me in to the story and I couldn’t put it down. I thought it was amazing. I would have given it 5 stars right there. The dynamic of trying to understand the world and the story from the mind of a schizophrenic was so interesting and so unique and really kept my mind guessing. Granted I did pick up on who was or who wasn't real early on but that did not impact the story for me negatively in any way.
So for me it was really the ending that brought the 5 stars down to 3.5 stars for me. While I am ok with far-fetched to some degree I just didn't like it and felt let down. I don't know what I wanted but what I got wasn't it.
Profile Image for Jenny.
872 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2019
Wow, where do I start? This book was awesome! I dare you, nay, I challenge you to try to put this one down once you pick it up. Sheesh, talk about a book that makes you questions your own sanity and then comes creeping back into your memory in a dark room to scare the hell out of you. Loved it!

That took way too long this time. Barely getting snatches at a time between a new baby took a bit away from the story this time. Still enjoyed its uniqueness but I noticed the amateur writing more.
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,509 reviews453 followers
September 30, 2012
Paranoid tale from the mind of an obvious Philip K. Dick's fan. For some reason this was filed at the library under horror, though it's really more of a scifi with serious psychological aspects. The is he or isn't he mad theme throughout the book keeps the reader guessing till the final chapters and the revelation is definitely worth the wait. Pacing is lightning fast, so it isn't that much of a wait even, several hours of reading. The writing isn't amazing or dazzling, but it is solid and very servicable, liked the premise, liked the ending. Recommended.
Profile Image for Lynn K..
600 reviews13 followers
February 25, 2021
I love the way Wells writes. I thought the story was OK, but not as engaging as his I Am Not A Serial Killer series. I also somehow keep picking up books with cults (but the synopsis doesn't mention these cults) and I really don't like books about cults. I find them boring. Thankfully the cult in this book is mostly just in the background. They're mentioned throughout and don't come fully into the picture until the end. That's probably why it took me, like, three days to read the last few chapters. I did enjoy reading this, but it's not my favorite from this author.
Profile Image for Angie.
230 reviews19 followers
January 5, 2013
I guess I'm just not a Dan Wells fan. I wasn't impressed with I Am Not A Serial Killer and never continued the series. I was assured this was different. To be honest I was bored by this book. There were elements with potential but most of the book we are trapped in Michael's delusions and medicated fugue. Yawn. It may have been the Klonopin seeping through the pages because I often fell asleep while reading. Sorry, Dan -- still not a fan.
Profile Image for Boostamonte Halvorsen.
518 reviews7 followers
June 15, 2020
Dan Wells is at his best with the John Cleaver novels. After that it has been hit and miss for me. Luckily this one is a hit! It is in that John Cleaver vein that works for Wells's style of writing and it a super interesting take on mental illness. It reminded me, slightly, of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest but with a very interesting twist and an actual insane person! When I say twist, it is the Wells twist I love, and it one that waits a long time to come about, but it is worth it!

Super good book! I knocked a star just because it took me a bit to like the main character and grow to care about him.
Profile Image for Bri.
521 reviews16 followers
July 12, 2019
I went into The Hollow City expecting to like it so I had high expectations. They were met when I read this. I have no complaints to talk about. I think that The Hollow City was very well executed with each reaction, clue, and event flowing into the next. The pacing of the book was excellent. It was fast paced but still managed to be coherent.

As far as characters go, I liked John Wayne Cleaver [I Am Not A Serial Killer] more than Michael even though he wasn't any less interesting. I think that I enjoyed the darker, creepier side to John that Michael didn't have. Michael had a depth to him that I appreciated and it was interesting to experience everything in the book from his point of view. He was an unreliable point of view. It was difficult to tell fact from fiction which I found to be exciting and frustrating at the same time.

I loved the twist in the book even though I guessed part of it. It was an interesting way to take the story. I think that the paranormal elements in this book were more fleshed out and better done than in some of the author's previous work. I honestly don't think that Dan Wells can write something that I won't enjoy. I have liked all of the books that I have read by him.


Profile Image for Jessica Nix.
203 reviews3 followers
May 25, 2019
I had this on my to read list for quite so time and was so excited to get to it. Sadly I ended up disappointed. It just didn’t work for me. I felt like I was just waiting and waiting waiting for something to happen—I found the beginning repetitive and redundant. The last 1/3 finally got moving and I did enjoy that portion. It was rapid moving and exciting. The writing style was enjoyable so I will try another by him.
Profile Image for Jenni Elyse.
312 reviews68 followers
July 8, 2019
I liked the first two thirds a lot. I couldn’t put the book down. It was such an interesting premise and, just like Michael, I wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t. But I’m not sure I liked where the book went in the last third. It got a little too sci-fi for my taste. I like sci-fi normally but this seemed like it came out of nowhere.
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