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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I’d give it 4 and a half stars if I could
“The Hollow Man” comes under the heading of science fiction, but I think it’s the kind of story that even those who don’t usually care for the genre can like. It features telepathy, has elements of horror and lots of enthusiastic blather on quantum physics. But ultimately it seems a very “human” story to me. I use the word “blather” with the utmost affection, it was fun trying to tell if Simmons really understands this stuff or if he’s just faking it really well, I suspect the former, but either way, he makes a good job of it and I doubt there’s another author on the planet who could engage me on a story where telepathy. plays such a major role Simmons has a gift for polishing up, or putting a new spin on topics that I usually find dull or trite.
“The Hollow Man” isn’t pretty. Human evils are sloshed out like a bucket of dirty water for the reader to wade through, all the banality, violence, pettiness, greed, sickness and cruelty - it’s a faith-shaking glimpse into the worst of the human psyche. But then Simmons does an amazing thing - somehow, without resorting to religion or Pollyanna-ishness - he flips the whole thing over and the result is a near brush with sublimity.
The narrator is superb. He strikes the perfect tone for every character.
The audiobook production is flawed. One chapter repeats. I listened to the repeat just in case Simmons was playing around with some sort of quantum alternate outcome - but no, it’s just the sloppy work of someone who couldn’t be bothered to do his job well.. It’s insulting to the author and narrator who put a lot of good work into the book and to the listener who put out good money for it. It’s annoying and it’s surprising how often it happens in audiobooks.
Finally though, I thought “The Hollow Man” was an excellent story. It’s literate, there’s a lot of quantum physics math talk and philosophical talk on the nature of existence. There’s nastiness. But it’s deftly balanced out with enough love and compassion to make it an unusual and near sublime read.