First and foremost, I owe an apology to Mike and to Darklit Press. I devoured Hollow by Mike Salt. It hit on almost every single real fear and potential trigger I've got, and hasn't stopped haunting me since I read it. I thought I had already published my review of it, started looking to share it again, AND FOUND IT STILL SITTING IN MY DRAFTS. I have no idea how it escaped me, because this is officially my favorite read of 2023. There were some amazing contenders, but Hollow crawled under my skin, burrowed through muscle tissue, and settled uncomfortably into the marrow of my bones. (Also a shout out to TruBorn for the cover, because that image has been burned into my brain as well).
While I'm a huge advocate for trigger warnings, I don't usually read them. There isn't much that makes me so uncomfortable that I need an advanced warning, but I highly recommend if there's anything that has that effect on you, you read them before diving into this book. Mike takes the book from zero to 1000 right from the beginning, and maintains that pace throughout the whole thing.
What's supposed to be a relaxing visit among friends in their hometown, rapidly turns into a fight for survival in the tunnels below the streets for Robyn, Travis, and Bird. Nothing and no one are what they seem to be, making an already arduous battle feel even more like a lose-lose situation.
The setting in this book is essentially an entire character, and an incredibly dynamic one at that. It's unpredictable, malicious, and terrifying in ways that a location shouldn't be. Mike's descriptions will have you fumbling blindly through every corridor, hoping for (yet also dreading) any sign of light up ahead. You'll encounter every creepy-crawly, slithery, slimy figment of your nightmares, and contemplate taking a break but find yourself unable to stop.
It seems impossible that I would be at a loss for words, but that's the effect this book had on me when I read it. No matter how I try to word things, I can't even begin to capture the full scope of how uncomfortable and unsettled I was (and still am, every time I think about it). If you're looking for something genuinely terrifying, buckle up and grab this nightmare in print form!
Where to find Mike:
Trigger warnings: blood, violence, abduction, murder, spiders, tight spaces/claustrophobia, slugs, trypophobia, corpses, being underwater, heights, and odontophobia (fear of teeth falling out)