cover image Hollow


Brian Catling. Vintage, $17 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-08115-0

With lush, erudite prose and a large cast of darkly eccentric humans and monsters, this spellbinding slipstream novel from Catling (the Vorrh trilogy) feels like stepping into one of Hieronymus Bosch’s playfully macabre paintings—works which are aptly referenced in the novel’s second act. In a fantasy revisionist’s version of early 16th-century Netherlands, a troupe of ruffians transporting a malformed oracle and led by the fearsome Barry Follett travel across the wilderness and over Das Kagel, a mountain rumored to be the ruins of the Tower of Babel. Meanwhile, a young monk, Dominic, and his curmudgeonly mentor, Benedict, investigate the mysterious emergence of small demonic creatures called Filthlings and Woebegots, and a village woman, Meg, joins forces with unlikely allies to lead a witchy revolution against the Inquisition’s oppression. These braided threads grow ever tighter, slowly weaving a tapestry of the surreal and grotesque that culminates in a mostly satisfying climax that balances on the edge of hell. While some readers may grow frustrated with the uneven pacing and perfunctory ending, there’s no denying the fascinating otherworldly quality of Catling’s richly detailed novel. The result is historic, horrific, and phantasmagoric. [em]Agent: Seth Fishman, the Gernert Co. (June) [/em]