Review of Surface: Hollow; Book 1 by J V O’Neill

A strange and compelling novel. Combining a literary pace, trauma, confusion, humility, recovery, and imagination.

Interspersed with Wiki articles which present revealing data to bolster the narrative devices, its pages are infused with relatable daily struggles, adjustments to life’s hardships, intimate details, intricate interior monologue, and all the facets of modern life, the way it wears a person down, and the way we cope with mere existence. As the tension mounts, and we are given increasingly more variety and perspective, the atmosphere of dread and dissolution, the accumulation of desire, and the imaginative landscapes broaden.

At bottom, it is an examination of the rhythms of life, a depiction of the psychology of wants, grounded in urban anxieties alongside the endless multitudes striving toward some self-created future, propelled by blossoming desires, perceptions, drugs, and weighted down by the lingering effects of accidents, mentally perceiving subtle changes in reality – most of which is colored by our experience and mind. By wrestling with the rational minds of their characters, the author mingles sensations, memories, psychological analysis, dream, day-to-day life, and fantasy into a surreal onrush of imagery, strengthened by legends, fantastical tropes, and scientific mysteries, all the while lacing the narrative with ethereal beauty. It is a descent into a more scintillating world, full of dark fates, which in a way, is the mirror of our own. The world building blossoms into a complex and impressive accumulation of rich detail, coupled with the spirit of adventure, travel, and a dense appreciation of diverse locales. The shifting perspective gives contrast to developing plot lines, relationships, traditions, etiquette, and minute examinations of interrelated lives.

For fans of realistic characters and unique settings, this will offer an escape which feels lived-in and functional, with a well-constructed sense of place, and a satisfying and sophisticated story.

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