Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Hollower

Here is a book I had heard a great deal about before I read it. It is the first book by Ms. Sangiovanni, a highly regarded member of the horror community (she has written several short stories that I’ve enjoyed a great deal), and a number of the authors I admire, like Brian Keene and Gary Braunbeck, have lavished praise on the book. So I came to it expecting a lot from it.

But I found it a mixed bag. The novel has an interesting concept. The characters are stalked by a mysterious creature (the titular Hollower), who appears as a man in a black trench coat, black fedora, black gloves – and no face. The Hollower exploits the deepest fears of its victims until they break, then it eats them. This a new take on horror and an interesting premise. In my opinion, it is partially undone, however, by a few flaws.

First of all, the book plunges directly into the action, with very little time devoted to developing the characters, or in making us care about them. Characterization is the key to horror. It isn’t enough just to have someone decapitated, you have to have a reason to care that they have been decapitated. The novel fails in this regard, producing mostly cardboard characters, with little to even distinguish them one from the other.

There is also a common flaw in this type of story. The menace faced by the protagonists is absolutely invulnerable – right until you reach the time where it needs to be destroyed, and then it is suddenly susceptible to something that hasn’t been adequately set up in the story thus far.

I don’t want anyone to think I am completely down on this novel. The writing is quite capable, and some individual sequences are quite suspenseful. I will certainly be looking forward to reading Ms. Sangiovanni’s next book.

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