One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.
S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle's wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.
Then Big Jim's eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn't quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies--from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim's loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis--fail to cure Big Jim's debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity's extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.
Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.
Kira Jane Buxton's writing has appeared in The New York Times, NewYorker.com, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Huffington Post, and more.
Her debut novel Hollow Kingdom was an Indie Next pick, a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, the Audie Awards and the Washington State Book Awards, and was named a best book of 2019 by NPR, Book Riot, and Good Housekeeping. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, five Steller's jays, two dark-eyed juncos, two squirrels, and a husband.
S.T. is a domesticated crow living with his mofo, Big Jim. (S.T. calls all humans mofos, because that's what Jim calls them.) He spends his days learning tricks, caching objects and avoiding Dennis, Big Jim's bloodhound. Then, Jim's eyeball falls out. What happens next? You'll have to read this to find out!
I read the reviews of a few of my friends and decided to give this one a go. I'm so glad I did. There is really no way to describe this book, or to even shelve it at Goodreads because it doesn't fit into any neat category, genre or sub-genre. This is mostly because HOLLOW KINGDOM is from the crow's point of view. And a cat's. And a whale's. It's beautifully written, with prose so carefully crafted-it's both inspiring and heartfelt. For example, (keep in mind this is from the crow's point of view):
“I cannot recommend this to you enough: find something that you believe in, right down deep in the depths of your silvery plumage, and then throw your heart at it, blood and valves and veins and all. Because I did this, the world, though brambled and frothing at the mouth, looked more vibrant; blues were bluer, and even the fetid puddles that collected under rusting cars tasted as sweet as summer wine.”
The other reason I liked this book so much is the humor; it's hilarious! I won't tell you what S.T. is short for, or his pet names for certain mofo items. I found myself laughing aloud on the second page and that continued throughout. S.T.'s hopefulness and his love of humanity kept me going through this past week or so, despite the seemingly endless violence we hear about all the time.
“Watching the sunrise.....what an act of beauty, of unwavering faith, something to look forward to each and every day.”
I am very much simplifying for this review, but be aware, this is a bit more than your average zombie apocalypse. The cause of it was sobering when I thought more deeply about it. Also, I don't see how anyone could not take away a love for our environment, our animals, and our very earth. We need to care for her, because she takes care of us.
HOLLOW KINGDOM is a unique, hilarious, thought-provoking, and beautifully written novel and I'm giving it my highest recommendation.
Looking for something out of the ordinary? ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I am pretty certain I’ve not read another book remotely like this one. A personality-filled crow who is attempting to save the world from the apocalypse, along with his trusty steed, Dennis, the dog. I LOVED these memorable characters. I adored the Seattle setting. The creativity and originality are absolutely astounding, not to mention, it’s a smooth read from start to finish. Reading it was a delightful experience. I highly recommend it.
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
Everything talks. You just have to be willing to listen
After much deliberation, my final rating is 2.5 stars. This book wasn’t bad. Not at all. There was just quite a lot that fell short for me. Emphasis on me. I’m sure this book will work for a lot of people. It just did not work for me. Here’s why:
➵ The science fiction flunked - I was really looking forward to a good apocalypse. Unfortunately, this book focused more on the animals than the zombies (MoFos) which, I assume, was the idea. That said, I felt cheated and let down. We never get any details on what’s going on or why. Things are hinted at but were never brought into the light. I felt like every time I got closer to a revelation, it was pulled just out of reach. And goddamn that is frustrating. It feels like a sneeze that never comes
➵ I kind of lost track of the plot - Now, this one’s my fault. Kind of. I was really invested in the plot in the beginning because I was really, really hoping for a satisfying ah ha! moment! And as I mentioned above, that never came. Aside from that, I felt as though we weren’t getting anywhere. Chapter after chapter and we haven't accomplished anything. It was like running on a treadmill, which, in case you don’t know, is f**king pointless.
That said, this book was absolutely hilarious. Like, belly laughing, tears spilling from your eyeballs (or eyeball), funny. ST. (or sh*t turd, whose name is funny on it’s own) was one of the funniest characters of 2019. So funny that he made me despise crows a little bit less. And that’s saying something.
I honestly loved the fact that this book was both horror/science fiction yet humor at the same time. And yes, the sci-fi wasn’t my favorite but the humor was gold. This author has great talent and I think she will definitely write some bestsellers.
Overall, the sci-fi was a let down but this book will still make you laugh. Even though I overall didn’t enjoy this book that much, I still recommend it.
Bottom Line: 2.5 Stars Age Rating: [ R ] Content Screening (Spoilers) - Educational Value: [Climate Change and overall care for our planet] ~ Possitive Messages: [None] ~ Violence: [Body Horror, Peril, and Violence towards animals] ~ Sex: [Dicussion of male genetals] ~ Langauge: [F*ck, sh*t, d*mn, asshole] ~ Drinking/Drugs: [None] TW: Body Horror, Loss of loved ones Reps: [None] Cover: 4/5 ~ Characters: 3/5 ~ Plot: 3/5 ~ Audio: 3/5 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Publication Date: August 6th, 2019
As hilarious on the second read as it was on the first. Love this book!
2019 Best Books of the Year [#04 of 11]
💚 Really hoping to see this genre bending debut nominated for all the prizes. 💚
Buxton catapults readers through the apocolpyse in a horrific yet hilarious tale narrated by an unapologically crass crow. Anyone would be hard-pressed to list a comperable title for this book. An off-the-wall gem.
This is cleverly funny with a good message, but I couldn’t wait to be done with it. I loved the first 50 pages but it dragged from that point on. The message and the plot were repetitive with a somewhat simplistic view of nature. I often zone out when reading battle preparations and scenes and there were numerous fights and conflicts going on here.
The main character is a precocious crow that uses his human training to unite with nature and animals to save the human race. If you have a romanticized notion about nature, especially birds, this book is for you.
I’m already an outlier regarding stars, and I think many people will enjoy this immensely humorous book.
When I was first offered the opportunity to read Hollow Kingdom, I hesitated. Books from the point of view of an animal just aren’t my thing. But, the book sounded interesting and I kept thinking about it. I finally ended up giving the book a try.
I am so glad I did.
I loved this book so much. It has everything! Characters I loved, heroism, heartbreak (such heartbreak!), epic battles, romance, and even hope. From the moment I met our foul-mouthed crow (and he really is foul-mouthed), I was in.
The book manages to be readable, funny, sad and incredibly epic.
This book is definitely outside of my normal wheelhouse. Told from the perspective of S. T., a domesticated crow, the world is in the midst of an apocalyptic pandemic. Think Shaun of the Dead zombie pandemic. And with just as much humor. I listened to this and it’s one of those books destined to have you getting strange looks as you laugh out loud in public places. S. T. Is the perfect main character. He’s foul mouthed, opinionated, partial to Cheetos and other junk food and with an overwhelming love of all things MoFo (human). S.T. realizes something’s wrong when Big Jim’s eyeball falls out. He heads out into the world, accompanied by Dennis, the bloodhound, hoping to find a cure for a Big Jim. In alternating chapters, we hear from S.T. and other animals trying to adjust to the “new normal”. For those that don’t like gruesome, this book is not for you. Surprisingly, it’s also beautifully written. The descriptions of the natural world are told with a detailed eye. It’s not evenly strong. There are parts that drag. But it elicits all the emotions, and reminds us of the importance of family, whatever form it takes. And I did find it inconsistent that Dennis seems to be the only animal unable to communicate with S.T. I did get a kick out of the cause of the pandemic. All too real... Robert Petkoff is a great narrator. Does it sound weird to say he sounds how I would expect a pet crow to sound? This is the perfect book for our pandemic. It shows things aren’t as bad as they could be!
(I managed the first 36 pages on this attempt.) Do you have a friend who’s intimidatingly sharp, whose every spoken or written line leaps from wordplay to a joke to an allusion to a pun? That’s how I felt about Hollow Kingdom. It’s so clever it’s exhausting. There’s hardly a sentence without a metaphor or a quip that will give you a chance to catch your breath. I wanted to read this because I’d heard it was narrated by a crow. S.T. (Shit Turd) is an American Crow who lives with Big Jim, an electrician, in Seattle along with Dennis the dumb bloodhound. One day Jim’s eyeball pops out and he starts spending all his time in the basement and acting crazy. On his reconnaissance flights through the neighborhood S.T. realizes that all the humans (aka “MoFos” or “Hollows”) are similarly deranged. He runs into a gang of zombies when he goes to the Walgreens pharmacy to loot medications. Some are even starting to eat their pets. (Uh oh.) We get brief introductions to other animal narrators, including Winnie the Poodle and Genghis Cat. An Internet-like “Aura” allows animals of various species to communicate with each other about the crisis. I struggle with dystopian and zombie stuff, but I think I could make an exception for this. Although I do think it’s pretty overwritten (one adverb and four adjectives in one sentence: “We left slowly to the gentle song of lugubrious paw pads and the viscous beat of crestfallen wings”), I’ll try it again someday.
*4.5* Stars. This is a book of towering imagination which displays the author’s deep love of nature. Humans have turned into ravenous, mindless zombies, perhaps by increasingly ignoring our natural world. The cause is rumoured to be due to a virus in their smart devices. This has led to a severance from nature. Even in their altered state, they show an attachment and obsession with the shiny screens of iPhones and tablets.
The story is narrated by a foul-mouthed crow named S.T. (Shit turd). He was once the tamed pet of Big Jim and learned his profane language from his owner. S.T also watched a lot of documentaries, especially on the Discovery Channel, and has a wide knowledge of the history and cultures of mankind. He tends to deny belonging to the crow species and identifies with humans. S.T. refers to humanity as MoFos, it in the wider world they are called Hollow, due to their detachment from nature. S.T. has an affection for another household pet, a drooling, lazy bloodhound named Dennis.
One day Big Jim’s eyeball falls out, and he becomes a dim-witted slobbering mess. What S.T. has observed is the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse. What will happen in a world devoid of people? What will be the fate of household pets, farm animals, and those in zoos and in the wild? I was captivated by the great laugh-out-loud humour, the vivid descriptions of nature, as well as of the suspense, danger and horror.
S.T. learns about Aura which works like an Internet in nature, combining the singing of birds, the sounds of insects and the rustling of trees to pass information on to to the animal world. He believes it is his destiny to rescue pets locked in homes. He starts out with the dog, Dennis, and is soon joined by other birds and mammals with the wider goal to save all animals and to find any humans who may have survived.
The Hollow Kingdom has been optioned by AMC to be made into an animated TV series for adults. I hope this happens, as I found S.T.to be braver, more heroic, much funnier, and with a more compelling personality than the characters on AMC’s Walking Dead series. Recommended for the immersive writing style, and unique, widely imaginative plot.
Everything talks, you just have to be willing to listen.
This one was a real roller coaster ride through a tunnel of love & hate.
I LOVED the beginning. We meet a domesticated crow named Shit Turd (S.T. for short), who loves hanging out with his owner, Big Jim, and Dennis, a dumb, but lovable bloodhound. When Jim becomes a mindless zombie, the two critters decide to strike out on their own rather than risk being consumed by their formerly human pal. They begin a quest to find and release "domestics" - pets trapped in domiciles after their owners became infected. This bit grew tiresome, and, at times, pretty nasty. But, S.T.'s personality, and his delightful quips, like - . . . who doesn't find a sparrow to be a delicious hors d'oeuvre? They're like airborne pizza rolls. - won me back again.
Then the book devolved into graphic scenes of warring animals, with fur and severed paws flying everywhere, and I was back to hating it.
But, S.T., again, pulled me up with thoughts of crows singing Smells Like Teen Spirit, and paying tribute to a wondrous place once known as Denny's by chanting "Moon Over My Hammy," and I was in love again.
So . . . if you don't mind reading about animals dying, and if you've got a kind of warped sense of humor, this one may be for you. Recommended, but with many, many reservations.
Mother Nature is not kind, but she is balanced. Every single one of us, from amoeba to blue whale to the tenacious bloom that dares to dream of tomorrow, have their own destiny-fulfilling journey as long as their minds and hearts are open.
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton is a science fiction, post apocalyptic fantasy that has a new twist with the surviving characters. Instead of the story being told from the point of view of the last remaining humans in the world we get a narrative from S.T., a domesticated crow.
S.T.’s owner, Big Jim, had gotten really sick until the point one day Big Jim’s eyeball falls right out. Well, what is one domesticated crow to do without an owner taking care of him? S.T. manages to team up with Big Jim’s dumb dog, Dennis, and take off out on their own to find out what was happening to their world.
Now, I’m sort of a hit or miss type of person when it comes to the entire dystopian or post apocalyptic type of books. Some of these pull me right in and I become completely engrossed in the what if we had this happen to us type of world. Others on the flip side tend to bore me with the lack of characters or engaging plot. Hollow Kingdom starts off s a cute new twist following this wise cracking crow but eventually it all fell flat for me. I’m sure some will love this one, I however just got a bit bored with only the animals.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
I received an ARC of Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton.
Unfortunately I did not like this book. Had it not been an ARC, I would've DNF'd it.
The premise is a zombie apocalypse has wiped out humanity and we see the events through the eyes of several animals, most living in Seattle. Our main protagonist is a crow named Shit Turd. While I do not mind some vulgarity, this book reads as if an immature boy wrote it. There were many fart and poop jokes, lots of profanity, and a general a juvenile sense of humor. I'll give you some examples:
"as awkward as an elevator fart." "Thanks, dick-wad" calling humans "Mofos" "douche canoe" "yarfed" "F*** off, you douche flute!" "You could have heard a dust mite queef in there."
The crow would often describe other birds in extremely negative and immature ways. Some things he said included: "turd waffle" "...a bunch of poop terrorists" "a giant troupe of swamp donkeys...elitist toot cabbages" "...their faces, those dildo-nosed potatoes." "And I definitely wouldn't tell those a** trumpets." "F***ing newspaper-colored, ice-balled dick goblins, yeah, that's who you want as your brand ambassador." "I hated these inky fools, these lentil-brained a** noodles."
I felt like maybe the author was trying to go for a South Park type humor; but unfortunately it was just vulgar with very little humor. I will admit a few entries did make me laugh.
Sometimes the tone of the book changed and the author used several big words, some I had to look up the definition. But with two, she repetitively used the same phrases "glaucous-winged gulls" and "nictitating membranes." The inconsistency between vulgar language and more sophisticated wording was distracting.
While my largest problem with the book was the writing, I also had problems with the lack of an overarching plot. Most of the time, I didn't know what the characters were supposed to be doing. It seemed more a series of random adventures. The concept was inventive, but the author had too many ideas and was not able to pull them together. Overall, I found the book to be disorganized, crude, and ultimately, a big waste of time.
Such a different and creative book! Funny, irreverent, and filled with emotional highs and lows, this one took me by surprise in the best possible way. I didn't know what to expect from a crow's eye view of the fall of humanity (referred to affectionately as "MoFos" by the protagonist, S.T.) and the great change experienced by beings of the natural world left behind, but whatever it was, Hollow Kingdom fulfilled it. Part of the 5 star rating I've given stems from the pure enjoyment I got from reading this. This is going on my favourites 2019 shelf.
I've included a long, but representative, excerpt below. It pretty much conveys the tone of the book:
I hesitate to go on for fear that you will judge me and not want to hear the rest of my story. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel a duty to tell you the truth about everything. You deserve it. My name is Shit Turd and I am an American crow. Are you still with me? Crows aren’t well liked, you see. We’re judged because we are black, because our feathers don’t possess the speckled stateliness of a red-tailed hawk’s or the bewitching cobalt of a blue jay’s, those stupid fuckers. Yeah, yeah, we’re not as dainty and whimsical as hummingbirds, not as wise as owls—a total misnomer by the way—and not as “adorable” as the hambeast-bellied egg timer commonly known as a penguin. Crows are harbingers of death and omens, good and bad, according to Big Jim according to Google. Midnight-winged tricksters associated with mystery, the occult, the unknown. The netherworld, wherever that is—Portland? We make people think of the deceased and super angsty poetry. Admittedly we don’t help the cause when we happily dine on fish guts in a landfill, but hey ho.
So, the truth—my name is Shit Turd (S.T. for short) and I’m a domesticated crow, raised by Big Jim who taught me the ways of your kind whom he called “MoFos.” He gave me my floral vocabulary and my indubitably unique name. He taught me to say some MoFo words. Because of the aforementioned Tinder misadventures, Big Jim and I spent quality, or rather quantity, time together and I have an array of tricks under my plume. I know about MoFo things like windows and secrets and blow-up dolls. And I am the rare bird who loves your kind, the ones who walk on two legs and built the things you dreamt of, including the Cheeto®. I owe my life to you. As an honorary MoFo, I’m here to be utterly honest and tell you what happened to your kind. The thing none of us saw coming.
Note - as a direct side effect of reading this book I now think of people generally as MoFos in my head.
If birds in books were even occasionally this humorous, I would probably have read more from a crow's perspective. When a crow is nicknamed S.T., short for Shit Turd - so named by former owner Big Jim - you know there might be at least a bit of humor involved. In keeping with his spunky personality, S.T. calls humans, like his owner Big Jim, “MoFos” (an endearing term? Believe it or not, it is.). Without MoFos, as such is the case in the moment as S.T's world falls apart, he is decidedly lost. Where there is a will for a bird, there may be a way.
Funny, yes, but that's not enough for me to give this more than 3 stars. The plot itself continues to change as the book progresses, away from what I at first found enjoyable. S.T. leads Dennis (Big Jim's bloodhound and S.T.'s only friend) away from home where the soon meet others, good and bad. Initial adventures become a semi-epic that loses a certain sense personal touch in he process. I probably won't continue with book 2, but this may work for others, especially if you enjoy books with animal protagonists.
Basically a nature book hiding in a zombie novel. The narrator is a foul mouthed domesticated crow and the action starts when his owner's eyeball falls out, but it's really about the interconnection of nature, the way humans fatally disconnect in favour of screens, and the need for found family and society. Some lovely writing as well as much swearing and gross-out bits. And the chapters narrated by a cat made me snort laugh.
“ My name is Shit Turd and I am an American crow. Are you still with me? Crows aren’t well liked, you see.“
“I owe my life to you. As an honorary MoFo, I’m here to be utterly honest and tell you what happened to your kind. The thing none of us saw coming.“
Finished chapter 9, returned it to Amazon. The beginning was funny enough, but the rest was just pretty pointless rambling for me. I was missing a red thread. There seemed to be no plot to speak off. Schoolyard humour and plenty of vulgarity alternating with overly clever waffling. The more I think about it, the more I dislike this book. Smart premise. And that was it for me. Sorry.
DNF, read 24%, about 77 pages of 320. Skimmed the last chapter. Nope.
What a trip, this read was. It had all the drama, intense action, death, love, hope and despair you expect in a zombie apocalypse read but it wasn't from the human viewpoint. This was the world as seen by animals, domestic, wild, captured, and other. They have personalities, and voice their beliefs all while trying to figure out this new world without the old humans. There is so much going on, so many things to consider. Animals trapped in homes, cages, zoos, aquariums, domestic meeting wild, territories, and food sources, all asked all answered in unique ways. The personalities, from cute adorable to hideous drool faces, all captured attention, some left me in tears. The twists never stop and nothing happens that is expected, it's a ride. E ticket all the way. Winner !
What a wonderful, imaginative tale. Kira Jane Burton 's Hollow Kingdom is acerbic, humorous and thought provoking read about the decimation of the human species and what caused it. The writing is beautiful. Even this is a dystopian novel it is deeply moving. I couldn’t put this down. It was so hilarious and slightly terrifying at the same time. The main character goes through quite a few trials with his plucky dog sidekick and it was perfect.
Narrated by a domesticated crow named Shit Turd, a.k.a. S.T., Hollow Kingdom is a zombie apocalypse novel from the perspective of all the animals left behind in this changed world after humanity succumbs to the zombie plague. S.T. and his loyal puppy pal Dennis end up on a quest to rescue the Domestics – the other pets who are starving or helpless and often trapped inside their deceased owners’ homes. But they have to face off against predators and horrific mutated-human monsters on the way.
I loved Shit Turd. (There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.) His POV is hilarious, observant in an enjoyably off-kilter way, and unique. The other perspectives Buxton visits – an abandoned poodle, a polar bear, a cat (oh my god, the cat!) – are also distinct, moving, and funny. S.T.'s human “owner,” Big Jim -- though deceased from the very first chapter -- remains a vital character in S.T.’s mind, and he’s a confusing, contradictory mess of humanity who I didn’t mind representing us as a species, honestly. You can see how he raised S.T. to be the bird he is and it’s actually very sweet.
There are some great early sequences with S.T. and Dennis trying to figure out how to survive – and simply what to do – in this suddenly topsy-turvy world. Sadly, I’m not sure Buxton entirely knew what to do with her promising premise: for me, the novel continues to lose steam the longer it goes on. There are too many action sequences of animals fighting other animals that are hard to conceptualize; I couldn’t help thinking that the fight scenes in Animorphs were better realized. (‘90s realtalk: Animorphs books were actually pretty darn good.) Furthermore, the actual cause of the zombie plague is…trite.
It’s disappointing, because I really did fall in love with this novel’s voice. Although honestly, it's probably still worth reading, just for that.
I don't read a lot of zombie books any more, but Hollow Kingdom made me want to change that. A debut novel with so many more strengths than weaknesses, this was a fun, sweary, and very original look at the end of the world.
We follow ST (Shit Turd), a crow raised by Big Jim, taught by him all the various great aspects of MoFo (human) life - Cheetos, and TV, and hot dog eating contests. But then one day Big Jim changes, and not long after that, life as ST knew it is over. On the road with Dennis (possibly the world's drooliest bloodhound) and looking for some way to fix things, ST quickly finds he's going to have to embrace his neglected animal instincts to get through this.
There's a few chapters where we jump over to the perspectives of other animals in other places - the author does a great job of keeping each voice distinct. Genghis Cat, in particular, deserves his own spinoff; a few short pages just cannot contain his magnificence. But otherwise it's ST who's the star, and his snarky tone is quickly underlaid by genuine emotion. Dennis is a silent partner throughout, but he's just as important - what would Batman be without Robin, after all?
For a debut novel, this is an impressive book. I did have one quibble - at about 70% we go through a sequence that feels very much like the end of the book, and I actually think it should have been. The last 30% absolutely could have been worked into another book, and though I liked the actual ending, I didn't love it. The tone change was pretty significant and a bit of a shock - though there's some pretty jarring horror throughout the book, the humour is never lost as much as it is in that last section. It becomes more sombre, more serious, and altogether more grown up.
Despite that, I had a great time with this book. It's a very original take on a genre I'm almost too familiar with, and finding something this new and fresh is always exciting. I'll be very excited to see what Kira Jane Buxton does next.
"Change is inevitable, dear crow. We must adapt. You cannot stop the tide, S.T. You must be more like the log that bobs along the surface."
I picked up Hollow Kingdom completely on a whim. I've been on a mission to broaden my reading horizons this year, and Kira Jane Buxton's strange debut endeared me with its out-there premise.
S.T. (which stands for Shit Turd) is a domesticated crow, who lives with his owner, Big Jim, and a goofy bloodhound named Dennis in Seattle. This shit-talking crow enjoys simple pleasures: eating cheetos, watching nature documentaries, and enjoying the company of his human owner. Things take a turn for the weird, however, when Big Jim's eyeballs fall out, and S.T.'s attempts to cure his friend are in vain. Desperate, S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and set out with his trusty steed, Dennis, to find a cure.
What he discovers in the grimy streets of Seattle is evidence of humanity's imminent extinction.
I can't deny that this book was enjoyable. The first third of Hollow Kingdom was incredibly funny, due mostly to S.T.'s biting inner monologue. His observations of the world are shaped by the old life he shared with Dennis and Big Jim, and his inability to accept his crow-ness was pretty hilarious. He just wants to be a human so badly. The admiration he has for our flawed, complicated species was very endearing.
I knew, based on the synopsis, what I was probably getting myself into. Throughout this book, I couldn't help but wonder: how on Earth could a bloodhound and a crow stop the beginning tides of a zombie apocalypse? The concept was incredibly interesting, and I enjoyed some elements of the story overall. Namely S.T. and Dennis' bond, the cats, and the wider themes concerning the natural world.
However, I can't deny that the pacing wore this story down.
I think that Buxton's debut would have been a wonderful novella. The story lends itself a lot to voice-overs of S.T. narrating what he and Dennis are doing, and the extreme lack of dialogue, paired with the repetitive nature of the plot, made me pretty bored. The writing was gorgeous, but beautiful prose can only carry a book for so long.
The themes of the story were very vague up until its conclusion, and I couldn't help but feel like the ending was...underwhelming. There was a beautiful, hopeful scene at the book's close that lifted my heart, but Buxton's themes surrounding humanity's demise were over-done and a little absurd, if I'm being honest. I would've liked a little more nuance. She had wonderful vision concerning the mystical, all-knowing presence of the natural world, though.
I really do admire Buxton's bold choices with this book, and I'm all for strange stories. I don't think I've ever read a book where every main character is an animal, so this was definitely different.
Was Hollow Kingdom enjoyable? Yes. But could it have been better? Also yes. I'm interested to see what this author writes next, all things considered.
“Every singe one of us, from amoeba to blue whale to the tenacious bloom that dares to dream of tomorrow, have their own destiny-fulfilling journey as long as their minds and hearts are open.”
I really liked this book. I am always on the lookout for something different, something original, something I haven't read one hundred times before. I have also been reading a lot of zombie books lately so I kind of think that this book was written for me. This was a different kind of zombie story and one that I won't forget any time soon. I am so glad that I took a chance and decided to give Hollow Kingdom a try.
This story is told almost entirely from S.T.'s point of view. There are a few other characters that get a quick point of view, but this is really S.T.'s story. S.T. is a bird. A pet crow to be precise. He has been dependant on his human, Big Jim, and likes his life. He knows that it is time to venture out on his own when Big Jim loses an eye and goes a little crazy. S.T. and Dennis, Big Jim's hound, leave the house and begin an adventure more intense than they could have ever imagined.
I loved S.T. from the start of this story. I thought that the author did a fabulous job of bringing this bird to life. I felt his uncertainty, his loyalty, and his desire to make things as right in the world as he could. S.T. is a smart little bird with a very large heart. He takes his quest seriously and puts himself at risk in order to save the lives of others. S.T. isn't the only great character in this book. We get to know Dennis through S.T.'s eyes and I couldn't help but fall in love with that dog. There really is a nice cast of characters that help to bring this story together.
I loved the way that this story was told. I was surprised by the level of humor throughout the story. S.T. knew how humans operated based solely on his experiences with Big Jim so his knowledge was a bit skewed. This story was also an emotional one. There were times that I got choked up but the turn the story took. I also appreciated the underlying message of the story. The reason behind the demise of humans is something that I would have to say has had a negative impact on our world in a lot of ways. I also liked the fact that we got to see how the animals fared without our interference and it was quite clear how much better the world can work when we work together.
I would definitely recommend this book to others. This funny, touching, and insightful story was unlike anything that I have read before. I will definitely be reading more from this talented author in the future.
I received a review copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing.
Initial Thoughts I really liked this book. A lot. I have been trying to decide if I should give it 4 or 5 stars. I am going with 4 for now but that might change. This book was funny, touching, and insightful. I thought that the whole concept was very well done and I really liked the underlying message. ST, Dennis, and all of the other animals were all great characters and I had a wonderful time going on this journey with them.
Warning: This story features almost exclusively animal characters and this is a post-apocalyptic story. Necessarily, some characters (including dogs, y'all) are going to die. Please don't come with torches & pitchforks for me, saying I fooled you into reading it & that you are traumatized.
Okay, now we all know where this is headed. What a hoot! The zombie apocalypse as narrated by a domesticated crow, S.T. (that’s Shit Turd, dontcha know). From that name, you can determine the sophistication of his owner, Big Jim. S.T. saves Big Jim's eye when it falls out and tries everything he can think of to cure his big buddy—beak administered beer, a variety of substances filched from a local pharmacy, even his beloved Cheetos. He recruits Dennis, Jim's bloodhound, to help him try to help Big Jim and all the other Mofos. But the humans have become shambling, aimless wanderers unless they spot a phone screen, which turns them into screaming, focused pursuers.
S.T. is sure there must be Mofos out there who haven't succumbed to zombification, so he and Dennis set out from their home to seek them and save Mofo society. Our favourite crow is convinced that life won't be fun without human food and entertainment. Plus, he needs someone with opposable thumbs to open doors for him. Dennis the hound turns out to be an affectionate and loyal companion, much needed as the two meet wild animals and try to rescue domestic animals trapped in their homes.
Buxton imagines networks between wild creatures: the Aura, the Echo, the Web. Being in tune with these is healthy and sustaining, unlike the humans whose internet has brought on their disaster. Who among us hasn't thought about phone zombies? On the university campus where I used to work, drivers must observe a speed limit that is lower for the students (20 kph) than for the campus daycare (30 kph). Toddlers are more wary than phone entranced young adults! If I have this one (very mild) criticism, it is that the “humans have brought on their own downfall through technology” message is a bit heavy handed.
The fantasy elements are right up front. If you can't enjoy a crow who wants to be a human and can't envision animals communicating and co-operating to survive after the disaster, this is not the book for you. If you hated Watership Down, you may want to give this one a miss. Likewise, if you are a delicate flower who can't withstand a fair amount of cursing, pass on by. For the rest of us, have an absolute blast with this cheeky corvid.
Ahoy there mateys! Though the first mate and I have very different reading tastes, occasionally we do recommend books to each other. Books the first mate introduced to me included xom-b, holes, and the perks of being a wallflower. He and I both read the following:
hollow kingdom (Kira Jane Buxton)
We read and talked about the book and I enjoyed his viewpoint so I ordered asked him to write a review. So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew. Please note that I write like I talk and the first mate writes like he thinks. Hope you enjoy!
From the Captain:
I was on the fence about reading this but the idea of the apocalypse told from a crow's point of view kept bringing me back. The First Mate read this and tipped me over the edge. It ended up being an okay read.
I did really love the first half of the book. The set-up of the story and the introduction to S.T. (the crow) and Dennis (the dumb dog) were excellent. I thought it was a lovely touch that S.T. was a crow that wanted to be a human and just wants to help his human friend, Big Jim. The humor of Big Jim being a kinda conservative redneck was especially well done given the heart that S.T.'s viewpoint adds to the situation. I ended up caring about Big Jim because S.T. does.
The highlight of the book was of course the relationship between S.T. and Dennis. The secondary highlight was the idea of the various ways the animal kingdom communicates in an internet sort of way. The problem for me is that once the book went from being about helping Big Jim and expanded to helping the domestic animals, I started to lose interest. Then the author killed off a fun character for NO reason and that irked me. The book proceeded to shift into animal politics, had info dumps, had several false endings, and had a plot twist dealing with the humans that I found unnecessary. There were so many plot problems in that second half. Of course the author can choose to write what they want but it was not what I wanted the story to become.
No regrets but I won't be reading the sequel. Arrrr!
From the First Mate:
This book is a bit uneven, but I really quite liked it. Considering that I’m a soft-hearted fool when it comes to animal death and this book features a fair amount of animal death and I still found it an enjoyable read, I’d say that my enjoying it was a win.
The Captain had mentioned Hollow Kingdom to me because I have a fondness for unconventional narrators. I like chatty narrators (exposed to Tristram Shandy and Joseph Andrews in my formative literary years) and especially narrators who are weird in some way. S.T., the narrator of Hollow Kingdom, is plenty weird in that he’s a crow that doesn’t want to be a crow, wants to save his best friend from this pesky little zombie apocalypse that’s occurring, and routinely rides around on the stupidest dog in existence. The Captain had cautioned that she’d heard the book was full of scatological, dudebro humor, but that’s not really the case. There’s some scatological events (Dennis the dog “yarfing” and some shitting) but it didn’t come across to me as though it was played for laughs. More in the vein of: these are biological processes and they happen.
At its best, Hollow Kingdom is a novel about identity, friendship, community and responsibility. S.T. starts out just wanting to fix his friend, Big Jim, and continue on his path of becoming a radical mofo. He ends up participating in a war, teaching other animals how to save domestics, and finding community with those he’d previously despised. We meet some awesome characters (Genghis Cat being the most awesome of all) and many of the adventures are quite engaging, tense, and well written.
On the other hand, there are quite a few elements of the novel that simply don’t work. The zombie apocalypse aspect is really superfluous to the rest of the story. If Buxton had simply had humans die out instead of what happens to them, the story doesn’t really change all that much. There’s an infodump about 2/3rds of the way through that tells us what’s going on with the humans, and I just didn’t care. Additionally, some of the characters that were killed off seemed kind of wasteful and really left me scratching my head over whether they were necessary to the story at all. There are also interlude chapters devoted to various animals from around the world and how they’re dealing with what’s going on. I did not enjoy the interludes, except the two that featured Genghis Cat.
Structurally the book feels like it should have ended at about the halfway point. Most of S.T.’s growth has occurred by that point, he’s taught all that he’s going to teach, and there’s a pretty good moment where various characters come together. And then it just kind of continues. There’s a couple of battles, some more deaths (some earned and others feeling very cheap), and then an ending that really felt out of place and unnecessary.
The reason to read Hollow Kingdom is the joy of the base premise. An intelligent crow narrates the apocalypse. The narration was enjoyable enough that I was able to overlook most of the novel’s problems while reading. Thinking back, the problems become very evident when I’m not grinning to myself over the enjoyable narration.
Worth giving a shot if the premise appeals and you’re a fan of chatty narrators. Avoid if domestic animal death cuts you to the quick.
That was fun! The humor was good, clean (ha! just kidding) and never really got old. There isn't too much to say about it, the story was interesting but not really captivating and S.T. was a good MC. I would recommend to anyone looking for a light, quick read. The first 10-20 pages are a good representation of the rest of the book.