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Hollow

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From the acclaimed author of the Vorrh Trilogy comes an epic odyssey following a group of mercenaries hired to escort a divine oracle on a long journey amidst a war between the living and the dead. Sheltering beneath Das Kagel, the cloud-scraping structure rumored to be the Tower of Babel, the sacred Monastery of the Eastern Gate descends into bedlam. Their ancient orac From the acclaimed author of the Vorrh Trilogy comes an epic odyssey following a group of mercenaries hired to escort a divine oracle on a long journey amidst a war between the living and the dead. Sheltering beneath Das Kagel, the cloud-scraping structure rumored to be the Tower of Babel, the sacred Monastery of the Eastern Gate descends into bedlam. Their ancient oracle, Quite Testiyont--whose prophesies helped protect the church--has died, leaving the monks vulnerable to the war raging between the living and the dead. Tasked by the High Church to deliver a new oracle, Barry Follett and his group of hired mercenaries are forced to confront wicked giants and dangerous sirens on their mission, keeping the divine creature alive by feeding it marrow and confessing their darkest sins. But as Follett and his men carve their way through the treacherous landscape, the world around them spirals deeper into chaos. Dominic, a young monk who has mysteriously lost his voice, makes a pilgrimage to see surreal paintings, believing they reveal the empire's fate; a local woman called Mad Meg hopes to free and vindicate her jailed son and becomes the leader of the most unexpected revolution; and the abbott of the monastery, influential as he is, seeks to gain even more power in this world and the next. Rich with action and fantastic creatures, Hollow ushers the reader through a world of ruin where holy secrets are unearthed, art mirrors life through a glass darkly, and death looms over everything. It is B. Catling's most accomplished and gripping tale yet. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL


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From the acclaimed author of the Vorrh Trilogy comes an epic odyssey following a group of mercenaries hired to escort a divine oracle on a long journey amidst a war between the living and the dead. Sheltering beneath Das Kagel, the cloud-scraping structure rumored to be the Tower of Babel, the sacred Monastery of the Eastern Gate descends into bedlam. Their ancient orac From the acclaimed author of the Vorrh Trilogy comes an epic odyssey following a group of mercenaries hired to escort a divine oracle on a long journey amidst a war between the living and the dead. Sheltering beneath Das Kagel, the cloud-scraping structure rumored to be the Tower of Babel, the sacred Monastery of the Eastern Gate descends into bedlam. Their ancient oracle, Quite Testiyont--whose prophesies helped protect the church--has died, leaving the monks vulnerable to the war raging between the living and the dead. Tasked by the High Church to deliver a new oracle, Barry Follett and his group of hired mercenaries are forced to confront wicked giants and dangerous sirens on their mission, keeping the divine creature alive by feeding it marrow and confessing their darkest sins. But as Follett and his men carve their way through the treacherous landscape, the world around them spirals deeper into chaos. Dominic, a young monk who has mysteriously lost his voice, makes a pilgrimage to see surreal paintings, believing they reveal the empire's fate; a local woman called Mad Meg hopes to free and vindicate her jailed son and becomes the leader of the most unexpected revolution; and the abbott of the monastery, influential as he is, seeks to gain even more power in this world and the next. Rich with action and fantastic creatures, Hollow ushers the reader through a world of ruin where holy secrets are unearthed, art mirrors life through a glass darkly, and death looms over everything. It is B. Catling's most accomplished and gripping tale yet. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL

57 review for Hollow

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Krueger

    I wanted to let this one sit before I tried writing it up. Tldr this book is a hell of a trip, in all possible senses of the word. It’s like the experience of looking at a Bosch painting (which I’m reasonably sure is intentional, given direct references to Bosch in the text). At first glance, it seems fairly straightforward - a group of mercenaries hired to take a replacement oracle to its new home, a woman trying to recover her son and deal with her shitty ass husband, a monastery and the strug I wanted to let this one sit before I tried writing it up. Tldr this book is a hell of a trip, in all possible senses of the word. It’s like the experience of looking at a Bosch painting (which I’m reasonably sure is intentional, given direct references to Bosch in the text). At first glance, it seems fairly straightforward - a group of mercenaries hired to take a replacement oracle to its new home, a woman trying to recover her son and deal with her shitty ass husband, a monastery and the struggle between a brother and an Abbott. But as you look closer and deeper you see the weird fucking details of what’s going on - the steeping of the bones, the Woebegones, the oracle that came before the one en route, and you realize that you’re actually looking at a purgatory of sorts. There’s lots of gore in this, a more brutal look at vaguely Middle Ages. The trip is worth it - take a look when it comes out.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen

    Brian Catling burst onto the fantasy stage with a somersault and a reeking cyclops suit. He gave us the Vorrh trilogy (which I personally rate very highly): a gross, creepy, unnerving spectacle of a series, and Catling’s writing was very good - if in danger of overdoing it. Hollow (2021) is the start of something new. Catling, coming from the world of painting and performance art, took for Hollow his inspiration from painters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder to write a macabre, Bibl Brian Catling burst onto the fantasy stage with a somersault and a reeking cyclops suit. He gave us the Vorrh trilogy (which I personally rate very highly): a gross, creepy, unnerving spectacle of a series, and Catling’s writing was very good - if in danger of overdoing it. Hollow (2021) is the start of something new. Catling, coming from the world of painting and performance art, took for Hollow his inspiration from painters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder to write a macabre, Biblically inspired dark fantasy that walks a line between life and afterlife. The mercenary Barry Follett is hired by a Coptic priest to transport a highly valued Oracle to the Monastery of the Eastern Gate, which recently lost theirs. Follett collects the vilest murderers and sinners for his band, as per the revolting feeding requirements of the desiccated, wrapped corpse that is the Oracle. Along the way, it speaks sometimes, guiding their journey. Meanwhile, brother Dominic at the Monastery of the Eastern Gate is receiving visions. The Monastery, sitting at the foot of the mountain Das Kagel (which is the collapsed remains of the Tower of Babel), works like a cork to prevent the world of the dead from spilling over into the countryside. With the death of their Oracle, disaster is imminent. Follett and his band have to traverse a landscape of nightmarish creatures to deliver the replacement. Set in some 16th century version of the Lowlands, some of the chapters seem lifted straight out of a Bruegel painting. A third storyline follows Meg Verstraeten, a peasant living in the shadow of the collapsed mountain of Babel. The Spanish Inquisition is terrorising the countryside and Meg suddenly stands at the helm of an uprising, under the nickname of Dull Gret (if you are Dutch or Flemish you might recognise this name as Dulle Griet, also known as Mad Meg in England. There’s also a stone-throwing giant, which I believe is a legend from Antwerp. I love seeing some Low Country references in fantasy. One chapter is named Ol’ Klootzak’s Plot and I laughed out loud). While all this is going on, the world of the dead starts spilling over from the Monastery of the Eastern Gate, infesting the landscape with demonic creatures, so-called Woebegots and Filthlings. Catling is interested mostly in communicating an aesthetic, a certain brand of the fantastic. One that appeals to me greatly. There is a danger, however, in writing fiction inspired by other art, and that is letting the references dictate the story. This went wrong before with China Mieville’s The Last Days of New Paris (2016) which was not much more than a novella of name-dropping surrealist artworks against a thin and sluggish backstory. Catling does not totally avoid this trap. When the story is written around the references to real paintings, then the logic of the plot to tie it all together becomes a bit tortuous. Brother Dominic’s story includes a search for the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, but the why and the wherefore have more to do with Catling wanting to refer to those works than with the story he is telling. Catling’s weakness is plotting. The story does not accomplish everything that it promises at the outset and ends in a quick resolution that leaves many questions unanswered. His Vorrh trilogy had the same problem. As a writer, he loves setting up ideas and mysteries, focusing heavily on the aesthetics (which are great, no doubt), but just like a modern art piece, does not give a plot-heavy narrative with a clear answer. The story ultimately left me a bit unsatisfied. It depends on what you’re looking for in a novel. It is easily forgiven, because the book is full of wonder. Each little chapter has some strange creature or stunning magical event - a real parade of the amazing and the grotesque. Each wonder has the miraculous and the terrifying in it. And Catling is doing what perhaps no other fantasy writer is doing: mining art history for fantasy stories - and in this book in particular turning the Low Countries into a mystical landscape connected to 17th century paintings and legends. If you’re tired of the usual fantasy and are looking for something new, something inspired and strange, try this.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    DNF p.84/30% Didn't click with me. DNF p.84/30% Didn't click with me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Hawpe

    B. Catling, author the incredible Vorrh trilogy, does it again: his coagulated prose takes the broken bones of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, wraps them in a decaying Bruegel canvas, and bakes them in a womb of quasi-medieval fantasy until some unholy phantasmagorical union of China Mieville's Iron Council and Clive Barker's Weaveworld is birthed. B. Catling, author the incredible Vorrh trilogy, does it again: his coagulated prose takes the broken bones of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, wraps them in a decaying Bruegel canvas, and bakes them in a womb of quasi-medieval fantasy until some unholy phantasmagorical union of China Mieville's Iron Council and Clive Barker's Weaveworld is birthed.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Kind of pointless Too much was left out of the story, so it was hard to become enthused. There are a few winners and a lot of losers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    What a difficult book to rate! The aesthetic of the story I just loved. The plot was at the same time simple and obfuscated - I’m not sure I ever really knew what was going on or how/if the different threads connected. Might benefit from a reread one day. The writing was tremendous - character voice was memorable and moving. At times it felt a bit like a dark fantasy Name of the Rose. I liked it. Didn’t love it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    DNF—Good beginning, strong writing. I just didn’t vibe with it, I guess. Maybe I’ll return to Hollow? I loved the Oracle, very creepy. But when we got giants and woebegots, I felt like I was loosing the thread. (Not saying there isn’t one, btw.) “New Weird” is hit or miss with me. More misses than hits.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gerald C Koesters

    Was this book intentionally bad? I’ve read the Vorrh trilogy three times. It’s on my re read list right along with Blood Meridian, The baroque trilogy and Dune. This book could not be by the same author unless it was an early experiment. Love the author, but not this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sywert

    Weird, confusing,Catling. Awesome!

  10. 5 out of 5

    J.D.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Zac

  12. 4 out of 5

    Drew Pierce

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tilly

  15. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Bollenbacher

  16. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Ashe

  17. 4 out of 5

    William

  18. 5 out of 5

    John McD

  19. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Goodman-mamula

  20. 4 out of 5

    Romilly

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ola

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Robison

  24. 4 out of 5

    Adam Lent

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maike

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carly

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Robertson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ian Holloway

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jo Frankel

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kenyon Hart

  31. 5 out of 5

    Emily Grace

  32. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

  33. 4 out of 5

    Siavahda

  34. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  35. 5 out of 5

    Adrian

  36. 5 out of 5

    Kendall Culbertson

  37. 5 out of 5

    Ginnie Fletcher

  38. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

  39. 4 out of 5

    Leo

  40. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

  41. 5 out of 5

    Camila Quezada

  42. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Lafond

  43. 5 out of 5

    Mark Redman

  44. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

  45. 4 out of 5

    Kate (Feathered Turtle Press)

  46. 4 out of 5

    Maeve

  47. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Cole

  48. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  49. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

  50. 5 out of 5

    Alex Helm

  51. 4 out of 5

    Erin Elizabeth

  52. 5 out of 5

    Angie Johnson

  53. 4 out of 5

    Graham Vingoe

  54. 5 out of 5

    Brent Hayward

  55. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  56. 4 out of 5

    Pearse Anderson

  57. 5 out of 5

    LYNDSEY S.

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