[ Book Review ] Lions and Tigers and Zombies, oh my!

Kat’s Review: Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

In Hollowland by Amanda Hocking, hardcore teenager chic Remy travels with a Canadian, a rock-star, and a fashionista teenybopper through a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ravaged landscape on a quest to find the military quarantine holding her brother. Romantic subplots are plentiful, but for a post-apocalyptic tale of horror and adventure, there aren’t enough zombies to fertilize a garden. The true monsters the companions encounter are their fellow man (in the form of polygamous cults, armies of psychopaths, and military law). But while these subplots are tense and suspenseful, it was a downer that the slow-moving zombies never made me fear for the character’s lives or health. In part, this was because they had a lion in their car.

Wait, what? Is that a typo?

Nope. It’s a lion. Lioness, to be precise.

Though Hollowland starts out with a modified T.S. Eliot quote, and the title is a nod to his melancholic poem “The Hollow Men,”  I would have pulled a more tonally appropriate title and quote from Old Possum’s Practical Cats.

Ripley (the aforementioned lion) is a very practical, zombie-eating feline. When Remy (the teenager) takes pity on a chained-up lion, the cat ends joins their party rather than eating it, and then goes on to display a remarkable preference for rotting, undead flesh. The tigers show up later, but they seem to prefer to make friends with evil humans.

This entire Lion-Tiger thing may have caused some fatal suspension of disbelief issues, but that’s a chirp for another day.

Let’s shift back to the reading experience: the book is a solid, breezy YA romance in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It leans a little too heavily on romance for my taste–there isn’t enough room to swing a tiger without hitting a meaningful glance in the face. There is also a certain level of predictability where the plot is concerned. I raced through the book to find out if all of my predictions about zombie evolution, character survival, rockstar romance, and the mysterious quarantined brother would come true. About half of my guesses did. The rest remain maddening cliffhangers to be resolved when the sequel arrives.

The book’s biggest problem is its rushed pacing. It creates a breathless tone, but at the expense of sense of place. As I mentioned before, the conflicts are less about zombies (though undead ass-kicking is dutifully inserted a couple of times) and more about the crazy microcosms–religious, violent and otherwise–that survive the breakdown of law and order. And yes, the warzone did not feel believable, and would have benefited from added detail.  For example, there is a summary of a sermon a cult leader delivers which is summarized in a few lines. Remy proceeds to draw a subtle conclusion from his phrasing. The effect comes off as a shorthand for a longer scene (and who even writes about cults, anyway? Cough.).

In all, Hollowland was an enjoyable way to break in my new Kindle Touch. It was a page turner (screen tapper?) and easy to read. Though my disbelief fell out of suspension early on (lions and tigers, really?), I enjoyed the experience of reading a book solely to find out what happens next. It had good driving mysteries that hung over the text, and the quest for Remy’s brother gives the narrative a solid arc. It’s an entertaining post-apocalyptic thriller, and an excellent hangover remedy if you’ve been binge-reading pomo.


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