The pace of Hollow Shotguns is launched in the opening pages. The narrative is unrelenting, mesmeric, sparked with emotional energy; the jarred and disjointed prose providing imagery of chaos and destruction that is almost tangible, at times viscerally alarming, yet captivating throughout.
Set in the blistering heat of summer, this is the story of a gang of preadolescents striving to survive the homicidal consequences of a raging virus. As Hollow Shotguns unfolds, it becomes evident that the traditional materials of horror are being pushed far wider, merging popular and literary fiction. Whilst its foundations may lie in the horror genre, rather than sinking to the usual slasher plotlines and letting the reader idly suspend disbelief, the narrative forces them to confront and question where the real threat to the physical and spiritual self lies. It's a work that never patronises, brave enough to challenge its readers not just appease them. As the measures taken to ensure survival escalate, Hollow Shotguns unnervingly exposes how the capacity for harm which dwells within the human psyche is far more terrifying than any external demons.
The humour weaving through the passages offers some respite from the intensity of the main subject matter, with constantly well-placed reminders of our protagonists' youth and innocence, juxtaposing the bleaker backdrop of the apocalypse and the violence. The naive pondering of the young prodigies', often focusing on minute and irrelevant details irrespective of the approaching apocalypse, serves to develop the characters and give the book heart. From corrupt governments to antiquated education systems, all come in for hilarious ridicule... especially poignant when expressed from the mouths of the young boys.
Hollow Shotguns is laced with phonetic beauty. Many lines exhibit the author masterfully combining lexicons to create sentences which are as evocative as they are poetic. It has a strange, addictive prose that reinforces the darkness of the book. The style may require some acclimatising, but once its unique rhythms have been clicked to, Hollow Shotguns becomes nightmarishly engrossing.
The battle sequences are particularly absorbing. A poem in motion, delirious, disquieting. Yet the gore and violence is not to conform to audience expectations (and nor does it), but more an organic consequence of the story Hollow Shotguns is telling.
There are no tidy resolutions with this tale. Whilst Hollow Shotguns celebrates the social balance which ensues as class divides disintegrate, the reader is left considering a vision of a society perishing from within as it comes to terms with the material and moral sacrifices made to ensure survival.