The Hollower was Mary SanGiovanni’s first novel and it’s truly excellent. The story is about a shape-shifting entity called the Hollower and, when it is not hiding behind a stolen face, the Hollower is a rather scary sight. It wears a big black coat and hat and a pair of black gloves that only serve to indicate the presence of hands because, between the point where the coat sleeves end and the gloves begin, there is nothing but fresh air.
Perhaps the most frightening thing about the Hollower is what lies beneath the brim of its big black hat. “Face” is not the right word because a face has features and the Hollower’s has none. No eyes, no nose, and no mouth. Just an expanse of white that resembles an egg with a hat on.
The first character the reader is introduced to is a man named Max. He is one of the few people who can see the Hollower, which means the Hollower can also see him and that means trouble. Max’s troubles are nearly over because he has had enough. He is not strong enough to fight the Hollower and so, by the end of the prologue, he has taken the easy—if somewhat messy—way out by taking a shotgun and using it to redecorate the walls of his office in a nasty shade of red.
Two more characters are introduced in chapter one: a boy named Sean and a man named Erik. Sean is just a regular kid who suddenly begins seeing very irregular things in and around his home. Erik, on the other hand, probably has more experience of seeing strange things because he used to have a drug habit. But that was quite some time ago. The lad has cleaned up his act and settled down with the lovely Casey.
With the cold turkey far behind him and a hot bird to share his bed, there should be no looking back. The only problem is, sometimes when Erik does look back, over his shoulder or out of the window, he sees the Hollower watching him and hears its voice in his head, taunting him and working on his fears. This is placing a strain on his nerves and on his relationship with Casey as well.
The central character in the story is a bachelor named Dave Kohlar, who enters the story in chapter two. Dave is a journalist and, like Sean and Keith, he is haunted by something nasty in a big black coat and hat. The second chapter also introduces Dave’s sister Sally and the local barmaid Cheryl, who is quite a looker. She is also romantically unencumbered and Dave might just stand a chance with her if he can manage to stop looking at her long enough to ask her out. Sally and Cheryl are also on the Hollower’s hit-list, but it is not until much later in the book that all of the people on that list realize they are all in the same boat, join forces, and face the monster together.
The Hollower is an enjoyable book to read and a very impressive first novel. The characters are easy to like and I was rooting for them all the way. I wanted things to turn out okay for Keith and Casey and I felt like giving Dave a boot up the bum and saying, “Well go on then! Ask her out already!” I also liked the monster. The Hollower is such an unusual entity. In some ways, it’s a vampire of sorts, but it feeds on fear instead of blood and has a lot more tricks up those sleeves with no arms in them than your average bloodsucker does. For instance, the Hollower can drag its victims into alternate realities, which is handy for the Hollower, but bad news for its victims.
The Hollower is 308 pages long and should send a few shivers down the spine of most readers. I can highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys a good horror story.