The Hollow Man: Confused and overly-complex

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Hollow Man by Dan SimmonsThe Hollow Man by Dan Simmons

I’m a huge fan of Dan Simmons’s work — when he hits. With The Hollow Man, he misses. Though his talent as a stylist is once again on full display here, the story is confused and overly-complex, leaving the objective of The Hollow Man obscure and ambiguous. One look at the plot devices at work — neuroscience, serial killers, homelessness, telepathy, depression, the mafia, quantum physics — ought to tell you the story is bogged down with excess baggage. And did I mention the abused, deaf-blind boy with Down Syndrome who plays a hand in the novel’s climax?

Regarding content, The Hollow Man is the story of a telepathic man who undergoes a drastic life change after his wife, also telepathic, dies. The severing of this bond, which we are led to believe is stronger than the average relationship due to their mind-to-mind connection, causes the man to take extreme measures in coping with the resulting depression. Like the devices at work, his travels take him all over the map seeking mental healing. He ultimately does find escape, but not in the manner one expects.

In the end, if it weren’t for Simmons’s crisp prose and innate storytelling ability, I don’t think I would have been able to finish the book. Deep down, I do think the message of The Hollow Man has value — that the book has something positive to say. However, in order for this value to shine forth, the focus of the plot needed to be much narrower to allow the thematic elements to rise above the storytelling. Exploring the many facets of telepathy and neuroscience on their own would have been enough to fully flesh out the working theme. In the end, I give Simmons full points for intention, but the result just doesn’t warrant a glowing review.

Published in 1992. Jeremy Bremen has a secret.  All his life he’s been cursed with the ability to read minds.  He knows the secret thoughts, fears, and desires of others as if they were his own.  For years, his wife, Gail, has served as a shield between Jeremy and the burden of this terrible knowledge.  But Gail is dying, her mind ebbing slowly away, leaving him vulnerable to the chaotic flood of thought that threatens to sweep away his sanity.  Now Jeremy is on the run — from his mind, from his past, from himself — hoping to find peace in isolation.  Instead he witnesses an act of brutality that propels him on a treacherous trek across a dark and dangerous America.  From a fantasy theme park to the lair of a killer to a sterile hospital room in St. Louis, he follows a voice that is calling him to witness the stunning mystery at the heart of mortality.


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JESSE HUDSON, one of our guest reviewers, reads in most fields. He lives in Poland where he works for a big corporation by day and escapes into reading by night. He posts a blog which acts as a healthy vent for not only his bibliophilia, but also his love of culture and travel: Speculiction.

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  1. What a shame! This looked so good, but just too much baggage, I guess.

    • Bummer. I’d really been looking forward to this one. . .

      • Simmons says that this is one of his most misunderstood works. In other words, it’s possible that I missed something you wouldn’t. Only way to know is to have a try yourself. :)

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