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Book review: Orem author Dan Wells descends into madness with 'The Hollow City'

By Emily W. Jensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, July 1 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

"THE HOLLOW CITY," by Dan Wells, Tor, $25.99, 320 pages (f)

Michael Shipman, the newest complex protagonist of Orem author Dan Wells, cunningly asks, "You can't say I'm crazy just because I saw something you haven't seen. What about ... what about God? Can you lock someone up for believing in God? You've never seen him, so he's probably just a hallucination, right?"

Shipman wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the past two weeks and hallucinations and voices haunting his mind. What’s worse, there is evidence to link him to a rash of recent serial killings. How can he possibly clear his name from the confines of a psychiatric ward?

In "The Hollow City," which will be released on Tuesday, July 3, Shipman struggles to define reality, rambling sometimes incoherently about “The Faceless Men” and envisioning giant maggots. He cannot stand electricity, throwing blankets over his bolted-in bedside clock and destroying the cell phones of his visitors. And yet he brilliantly figures out escape routes and rationally diagnoses his own madness.

What is real and what is inside Shipman's own head can be difficult to distinguish.

Thrillingly executed, "The Hollow City" delves deep into the realms of paranoid schizophrenia. Wells deftly weaves a complex story with intriguing characters scattered throughout — characters for the reader, right alongside Shipman, to riddle out whether things are real or hallucinatory.

The ending, while satisfying, seemed a bit rushed. And yet, as proven in his "John Cleaver" series, Wells is able to use a dark and twisting tale to explore the intricacies of the human brain and to emphasize the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

Please be warned, there are graphic descriptions of murder victims as well as some scattered profanity. Plus the entire plot revolves around paranoid schizophrenia, hallucinations and delusions — aptly summarized as adult content.

If you go ...

What: Dan Wells book signing

When: Tuesday, July 3, 7 p.m.

Where: Weller Book Works, Trolley Square, 665 E. 600 South, Salt Lake City

Web: www.samwellers.com

Also:

When: Monday, July 23, 7 p.m.

Where: Barnes and Noble, University Crossings Plaza, 330 E. 1300 South, Orem

Web: barnesandnoble.com

Emily W. Jensen updates "Today in the Bloggernacle" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, presenting the best from the world of LDS-oriented blog sites. Her extended "Bloggernacle Back Bench" appears on Tuesdays. Email: ejensen@desnews.com

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