Hollow House (2016) is a horror novel written by Australian author and artist, Greg Chapman, that follows the residents of Willow Street and their experiences related to the deserted Kemper House that sits ominously on their street. One day, the smell of rotting begins to come out of the house and sets off a series of horrific events. To me, the story was in many ways similar to The Haunting of Hill House, and fans of the series who felt a tad disappointed by its lack of explanation will feel somewhat more satisfied by this one. While the author’s style of writing is one of the best I’ve seen (definitely Bram Stoker nod-worthy), there were certain aspects in which the story was lacking, particularly in its plot.
The writing style that Greg Chapman employs is very skillful and particularly in the first half, where there’s so much mystery, he managed to evoke a lot of tension that made me very hyped for when the mysteries unfold. His descriptions are top-notch and make you picture exactly the colors he wants you to see and hear the sounds that he wants you to hear, and at times I felt I was watching a movie in my mind while I read this book. He manages to give each character a unique personality as he builds up their background, and with there being so many characters in such a short novel, it really does deserve credit. His dialogue use is, for the most part, done well but it has a tendency to be awkward at some points (most notably at the end of Chapter Eighteen). There is also some strange use of metaphors and similes, like ‘a wave of oil’ to describe a wave of darkness which I felt didn’t quite land the way he had wanted to. Overall, however, the writing is done very skillfully and deserves a lot of credit for carrying this book.
The plot in the story is interesting enough, and very good at times, but it suffers from a proper lack of structure which resulted in a lot of cliches and awkward sequences once the mysteries in the stories began to unfold. For example, later in the story, a murder weapon’s origins are suddenly discovered and it is hinted that it came from ancient times and is sacrificial in nature with no further elaboration, which is one of the biggest cliches in horror writing. Furthermore, there are also very awkward action scenes which made me feel that the author wasn’t really sure how to get the story moving quickly enough so he rushed them. This resulted in scenes that just did not make sense and they ended up messing with my immersion in the story.
Additionally, there are way too many characters in the story (which to be fair are well-written), and this resulted in me mixing up characters or even just forgetting them all together, and I’d find myself turning pages back just to remember who they were again. This made my experience with the story a bit more frustrating. I will give the author credit, however, for having a good satisfying ending which, unlike The Haunting of Hill House, gives a somewhat better explanation and yet, ends mysteriously enough for readers to come to their own conclusions.