Review: Hollow City: A Superhero Vigilante Thriller by Kai Wai Cheah

There is a reason this writer occasionally cites Mr. Cheah’s articles for her Vocational Vivications, readers. Aside from the enormously helpful insights he offers in his posts, he is a darn good writer. Hollow City, the first novel in Mr. Cheah’s branch of the Heroes Unleashed universe created by Silver Empire Publishing, is one of the books* which prove it:

          Six kills in six years.

          Super powered cop Adam song has dedicated his life to the law. In the military and the police force, Adam ruthlessly protects the innocent.

          But this time he’s killed the wrong bad guy. Now the local drug lord’s son is dead, and the boss is out for Adam’s blood. Even his secret identity won’t keep him safe. The police department hangs him out to dry, his years of exemplary service forgotten. Adam must take justice into his own hands to keep his family safe.

          Because Adam is a Song. And Songs take care of their own. No matter the cost.

          When does justice become murder? And just how far will he go to protect his clan?

          Dragon and Hugo Award nominated author Kai Wai Cheah steps onto the superhero scene with his debut Heroes Unleashed novel. His characteristic fast-paced action and attention to detail brings Adam Song and the Chinatown of Hollow City vividly to life.

          What makes a straight-laced hero cop go rogue? Buy the book or read it on Kindle Unlimited today to find out!

Compared by other reviewers to Marvel’s Punisher*, the similarity between that vigilante and Mr. Cheah’s protagonist is indeed present. However, thus far Adam has avoided the fate of losing his family and going over the edge. Adam – code-named Amp for his ability to “amp up” his physical strength, speed, stamina, etc. – is a very controlled character. The man does not waste his time or his shots. He certainly does not lose his temper. Not in the conventional sense, at least.

Along with his parents and kid brother, Adam moved to the United States when he was young. He joined the Marines and served overseas before eventually transferring to the police force in Halo City. Nicknamed “Hollow City” for the rampant crime that prowls its streets and halls of power, his enhancement led to his transfer to the prestigious SWAT unit tasked with taking down superpowered individuals. Known as Primes in Silver Empire’s universe, these people have two main choices: turn to heroism as a profession, or become criminals.

Just as the blurb says, during the course of his duties over the last six years, Adam has killed at least one individual in defense of himself and his team. Most would pin this on his military training, which emphasizes taking down threats fast and hard before they have time to kill him or his fellows. While this mindset does play a factor in his willingness to pull the trigger, it is not the sole reason Adam shoots to kill in these situations.

In addition to his ability to amplify his physical powers, Adam has a precognitive or “danger sense” that will flare to life when lethal intent is directed his way. Moving at blinding speeds, he can take in details others without his particular capabilities would naturally overlook or misinterpret. Add to this his ability to sense incoming danger, and you have a recipe for a SWAT officer who will not hesitate to fire with intent to kill if he truly feels he and his teammates are likely to be shot.

But this time, he shoots not only the Prime son of a gangleader, but the young man’s girlfriend. Able to perceive that she was lifting up the rifle her dead boyfriend had dropped in order to fire on him and his partner, Adam takes her down before she can get the gun into position. Body cam footage can be interpreted to read her actions another way, however, especially given the fact that Adam’s superiors do not know of his sixth sense and cannot process live threats (or those seen onscreen) as fast or as well as he can.

It is the PR nightmare every police officer and precinct rightly dreads: legally and morally, Adam is in the clear. But the footage can be used to incriminate him, and the local politicians are in bed with the criminal element in the city. Throw in protesters demonstrating against Primes, and the recipe for disaster writes itself.

Pursued by bounty hunters, assassins, and lawyers determined to have his badge, Adam does his best to fight within the confines of the law. But when his SWAT partner is captured and brutally tortured by a Prime assassin in order to bring him into the open, he has to make a decision. Stay inside the bounds of the law, or save his teammate – by whatever means necessary.

Hollow City: A Superhero Vigilante Thriller* is an adrenaline ride from page one to the finale. Far from the brooding, grieving Frank Castle, Adam is composed, friendly, and thinks through every move he makes very carefully. The change is not only believable but refreshing; it is nice to follow a hero with a healthy emotional balance for once. Brooding and grieving has its place, but the market for heroes like this has been rather over-saturated for quite some time. It is fun to follow a vigilante hero who does not quite roll his eyes and shrug at the idea of being dark and brooding before getting down to the business of surviving.

I would also say his capacity for sudden violence outstrips the Punisher’s by a good mile or three. When Adam Song decides to kill, he does it quickly and efficiently. You will not find gore splattering the walls or gratuitous shoot-‘em-ups that leave the locale decorated in blood and bullet holes here. The book has plenty of deadly confrontations, but Adam’s style of fighting means the villains make more of a mess trying to kill him and his than he does bringing them down for good.

This book will not appeal just to thriller fans, but to anyone interested in the nitty-gritty details of living in a superhero society. Cheah’s world-building is almost on par with Kohei Horikoshi’s landmark manga and anime, My Hero Academia*, a comparison this author does not make lightly. If you want an idea of how laws, regulations, and day-to-day living would change if superpowered individuals lived among us, Cheah and Horikoshi are the two authors I would recommend reading. These men get it.

Pick up the book and its sequel at your earliest convenience, readers. You will not regret the purchase!

*These are Amazon affiliate links. When you purchase something through them, this author receives a commission from Amazon at no extra charge to you, the buyer. If you liked this article friend Caroline Furlong on Facebook or follow her here at www.carolinefurlong.wordpress.com. Her stories have been published in Cirsova’s Summer Special and Unbound III: Goodbye, Earth, while her poetry has appeared in Organic Ink, Vol. 2. She has also had stories published in Planetary Anthologies Luna and Uranus. Her latest story is available in Cirsova Magazine’s recently released Summer Issue. Order them today!

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