Brian Catling, who made Blake a character in his earlier Vorrh Trilogy, seems to have taken the poet’s infernal proverb to heart. He has followed Blake’s path as far as it goes: Everything about this novel is excessive, sometimes ludicrously so, but it achieves an ungainly beauty and a crooked wisdom ... Were Hollow merely the catalog of grotesqueries that a plot summary reduces it to, I’d still applaud it for its sheer prodigality with wonders: Each chapter offers the stunned reader a new marvel. But Hollow also offers reflections on the relationship between art and life, and, perhaps more pressingly, between death and art. It’s a tribute to long-dead geniuses that will also thrill readers entirely ignorant of European painting. The word 'hollow' suggests emptiness and deprivation, but Catling’s is full to bursting, abundant in wonder and replete in mysteries. It astounds and it appalls. Hollow is the strangest, most original, and most satisfying fantasy I’ve read in ages.
With lush, erudite prose and a large cast of darkly eccentric humans and monsters, this spellbinding slipstream novel from Catling feels like stepping into one of Hieronymus Bosch’s playfully macabre paintings—works which are aptly referenced in the novel’s second act ... 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.