Hollow Skulls and Other Stories by Samuel Marzioli

Dark clouds choke the daylight, signaling the return of hungry monsters intent on devouring the world. A father, raised on stories about an ancient evil that targets newborns, is accosted by uncertainty and paranoia over the birth of his new son. A church’s search for truth reveals a dark secret behind the object of their worship. A young husband strives for closure amid an aswang invasion, and the brutal murder of his wife.

Samuel Marzioli’s debut collection Hollow Skulls and Other Stories illuminates the logic within madness, the order behind chaos, and the hope beyond despair in thirteen tales that bridge the gap between darkness and the light.

The IndieMuse Review

Samuel Marzioli has delivered a beautifully poetic collection of horror shorts with Hollow Skulls and Other Stories, a varied yet consistently excellent set of thirteen tales, including;

  • A grieving father whose daughter has gone missing, and the seemingly impossible explanation which is slowly driving him into madness
  • A young couple who brings home their newborn son, who one of them suspects may not be entirely human
  • A girl with a shocking power over life and death and the surrogate father determined to help her master her gift
  • A congregation’s prayers to God that are being heard by something altogether more sinister
  • A young love, fondly remembered, that has sinister consequences when the former couple meet again years later to share a tale of a disturbing figure only they seem able to see
  • A small village haunted by violent visitations by long-dead loved ones, and one man’s wish to see his recently departed wife which may just come true

From the hauntingly nightmarish opening story (“A Pocket of Madness”) to the melancholy cautionary tale of the closing short (“Pagpag”) each and every story in Hollow Skulls and Other Stories offers something different to what came before it, without sacrificing anything in terms of quality. Each one of the thirteen stories is effective and memorable in its own right, without a weak link in the entire collection.

Some stories are truly shocking. The premise of the title story (“Hollow Skulls”) has a killer set-up, where a new father believes his newborn son may be a demonic imposter, is incredibly tense, knowing the possible outcomes that such a story might deliver, and while its ending is surprising, it is, if anything, all the more affecting for the unexpected direction Marzioli ultimately takes it. The stories do lean toward the literary, with a heavy focus on character and stunningly vivid prose, but it does nothing to blunt the more horrific elements on display.

One of my favorite stories, “She Who Would Rip the Sky Asunder” has a lighter tone, which makes the shocking opening and graphic descriptions effectively jarring when they do come. “The Last Great Failing of the Light” has an epic scope and has strong elements of fantasy, but uses these tools to tell a downbeat horror tale with a foreboding sense of inevitability. There is some fun to be had too. “Behind the Walls” is an entertaining creature-feature and “Multo” and “Sleeping Cupid Wakes” are both more straightforward horror fare with big scare factors and (particularly in the latter’s case) fantastic monsters that will stick in your memory.

Hollow Skulls and Other Stories is a rare collection where each short is distinctive and unique, while also managing to deliver a high quality and striking story each and every time. It’s an incredible piece of work and one that makes me excited to read whatever Marzioli has in store for us next.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

Curation Results: Hollow Skulls

gHoster
4/5
B-Baal
4.5/5
Emo-Lee
4/5
KnotBTK
5/5
Deathdealer
4/5

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