Cover by Amazing 15
EMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Published: 2 April 2013
On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)
While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure.
Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father.
With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.
So, I'll just get the obvious out of the way first. A novel set in the interior of the Earth will inevitably invoke comparisons with Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Having read Verne's book I can sum up what they have in common pretty fast: They are both set in the interior of the Earth. That's it really, Although I must admit that loving Journey to the Centre of the Earth when I read it made me want to read this book, they are two totally different stories. -Not that invoking Verne is totally misplaced, this story is part of the same Adventure* tradition that most of Verne's work falls into. But enough about Verne, let's move on to Wells -Martha, not H.G.
Wells wastes no time in getting the story started. The first chapter is packed with action, and before you know it you have been pulled into the story and is invested in finding out what is going to happen. That you are thrown straight into the action is not a problem at all. We join the story at the same that Emilie does, and find out what is really happening along with her, this is very well done. Information is delivered in a non-intrusive manner and doesn't interrupt the flow of the story.
The flow of the story is certainly an important element, and it is a very fast flowing story. From the opening chapter until the penultimate chapter there is hardly any part where the story doesn't have something happening. There are quite a few passages with talking, but they are almost drowned out by all that is happening. This is by no means a bad thing, this is true Action-Adventure in the sense that there is always action and/or adventure waiting just around the corner.
The journey undertaken by the cast in this novel is in some ways a familiar one, but Wells has made it a very interesting one. And I can't honestly say that I felt that there was any lack of suspense at what was going to happen next.
The structure of the story lends itself very well to creating suspense. And there is absolutely no doubt that Wells is very accomplished at putting the reader (, me at least,) in the position of *having* to read "just a little bit more" to find out what is happening next, something which makes this book a quick read. There are several cliffhanger-type events in this story, and the way Wells has gotten the reader invested finding out the resolution to them isn't really something you feel like putting off. So my advice is to set aside the time to read this until the end when you begin.
Sometimes the characters can drown when there is this much happening in a relatively short novel, but Wells avoids that. We do get to learn quite a lot about the characters as we follow their, figurative and literal, journey through the Hollow Earth, and we get quite close to Emilie.
Emilie is really an interesting character in her own right. What we learn about her in the course of the story would make her an interesting person to follow in any setting. I especially like how she is resourceful and quick thinking, but without being "superhuman" or too sure of herself. She feels well rounded and realistic, not far off from someone you may meet in real life, and someone who's well worth spending some reading time on.
There is also some very good supporting characters in this story. Anyone who has more than a walk on role is presented in such a way that we get some insight into what makes them tick. And in all honesty, a couple of them would not be out of place as the main characters in their own stories.
For me this was really an enjoyable read. I like this type of Adventure, and there is an added Steampunk(y) element that makes it even better. There's really lots of action and suspense here, and combined with characters that are interesting to spend time with, it makes for a very good reading experience.
This will be an especially great read for anyone who likes "Hidden World" fiction, and it will be a great read for anyone who longs for some action and adventure in their stories.
NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this book from the publisher/NetGalley.
*I wrote something on what I define as Adventure here (, and that was a long time ago - that post could probably do with a rewrite).