Hollowland by Amanda Hocking – A Book Review

If you are a writer, unless you’ve been living with wolves, chances are you have heard of Amanda Hocking, the twenty-something Minnesota author of young adult fantasies who spun the publishing industry in an unexpected direction.

One year ago this month, after a string of rejections from agents and editors, Hocking uploaded two novels in Kindle format.  She thought $43 for her first two weeks of sales was “pretty good.”  By the start of this year, she was selling half a million eb00ks a month, and in March she signed a reported $2 million dollar contract with St. Martin’s Press.

Amanda Hocking’s story has been told in the New York Times, the Wall Street journal, and on dozens if not hundreds of blogs, but one key question is seldom directly addressed:  are her books any good?  I just finished my first Hocking novel, and the short answer is, yes, it was lively, original, and I liked it a lot.

Hollowland starts with a bang and the action does not let up.  How is this for an opening sentence?

“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

These are not your old-school, reanimated corpse type zombies.  No stiff, slow, shambling, mumbling, B-Grade movie zombies.  A mutation of the rabies virus has infected most of the population, causing them to become really angry, really psychotic, and ravenously hungry.  After her quarantine station near Las Vegas is breached by a coordinated zombie attack, 19 year old, Remy, and her friend, Harlow, set off across the desert, determined to find Remy’s brother.  Their first traveling companion is an African lion – animals are immune to this kind of rabies, and all the big cats from Circus Circus are loose.  That night they meet a rock star whose fame doesn’t mean so much in a post-apocalyptic world.  They pick up an SUV and a couple of refugees from a fundamentalist cult, whose leader has the habit of “cleansing” his female followers in his bedroom.  And so it goes.

It says a lot about Remy that she names the lion, Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alien movies  That is the mojo you need when the zombies are winning.  Remy also has a charming irreverence, the kind of simple, eyes-open, speak-your-mind nature that you see in Amanda Hocking’s online interviews.

I can really see, though I have not found the words to express it, why the literary establishment would not cut Hocking a break.  There’s a hint of piety about the stories and characters you see in the YA fantasy section of Barnes&Noble.  The word “homogenized,” comes to mind.  And “processed food.”  And “inbred.”

This story was fresh, a little bit raw, a bit unpolished, but shaped by a writer whose imagination has not, and hopefully will not, be poured into the grooves shaped by others.  Hocking reminds me of Stephen King and not for the obvious horror licks that they share.  Both authors seem to gravitate to horror not just for its own sake, but to explore what ordinary people will do in impossible situations.

Hollowland is a available in both self-published text version, and Kindle format for $0.99, and in case anyone does not know, a Kindle device (though I love mine) is not required to read a book in that format.  Amazon has free Kindle apps for pc, mac, iPads and smart-phones.

Enjoy.

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5 Responses to Hollowland by Amanda Hocking – A Book Review

  1. Selena says:

    I guess I have been living under a rock. This is the first I’ve heard of her, so I’m zipping over to Amazon to check it out.

    thanks, Morgan!

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    • I got tuned into this whole phenomena by email friends sending me links. I collected and passed a number of them on in a post on March 2 called, “Writers Going their Own Way in the ebook World.” It was this whole “revolution” that first caught my interest. I think it was January when Amazon announced that ebook sales had just eclipsed sales in *all* other categories. The same month, independently published ebook titles had 12 slots in their list of 20 best sellers in the horror genre, and that included Stephen King in the mix. This was the first time I sat down to actually read something from the category.

      Amazon does not sample ebooks as they do certain print titles. I do not know if Hocking posts her titles on Smashwords.com, but that site, typically half the printed work is available to peruse before purchase. Just watch out – if you think hours can pass on Amazon, reading first chapters….

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  2. Interesting post, Morgan. I used to be a big Stephen King fan, but not so much any more. But I liked what you had to say about Hocking and King’s similarity in what drives their stories. Very insightful, as usual.

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    • I know what you mean about Stephan King. I was talking to a big fan of his recently, and even she admitted that some of the endings leave much to be desired. Still, there are gems in his work. I really enjoyed “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,” with its final twist on “reality and illusion” – that was a bear that was following her, right? It was only fatigue and hunger that made her think it was something more sinister…right? And also one time I caught a movie on TV staring Anthony Hopkins in an adaptation of the story, “Low Men In Yellow Coats.” It almost made up for some of the disappointing mini-series.

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  3. I loved The Stand and It. I still think The Stand is one of the best books written in that genre. Many of his short stories are real gems. That said, I stopped reading his work after The Tommyknockers. It dragged and was most unsatisfying. I felt his train had derailed.

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