Review: “Hollow Kingdom,” Kira Jane Buxton

Pros: Delightful characters; very quotable!
Cons: Gets very introspective!
Rating: 4 out of 5

Kira Jane Buxton’s Hollow Kingdom introduces us to Shit Turd (S.T.), a crow raised by a human named Big Jim. He spews profanities and rides Big Jim’s bloodhound Dennis like a horse. He’s also inordinately fond of Cheetos. One day, Big Jim’s eye falls out, and Big Jim deteriorates from there. S.T. steals a bunch of medications from a pharmacy (everything from antibiotics to Summer’s Eve) and tries to use them to help Jim, but nothing works. Eventually he and Dennis must leave their home in search of answers, food, and a cure for Big Jim–for all the humans, actually, because S.T. is in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Along the way, he discovers that he has a role to play in the newest phase of domestic animals’ lives.

The narrative is, for the most part, quite delightful. It’s hugely quotable, which is so much fun.

Big Jim and I shared a look, or sort of three-quarters of a look, because now, obviously, he only had a single eyeball.

S.T. is by turns hilarious and rather adorable. His is the most unusual narrative voice I’ve ever seen for a zombie apocalypse. Things do, however, take a bit of a downturn part-way through. S.T. becomes incredibly introspective as he has a crisis of identity and faith, and it goes on for quite a while. I found it didn’t hold my attention, so for a while in the middle of the book I kept putting it down. It’s well worth picking up again, however, because the more active storyline does get going again!

Content note: Since this is an apocalyptic story (albeit an oft-humorous one), and the characters are animals of all kinds, there is of course some animal harm and animal death in this book. However, this book is nicely free of the usual content issue found in post-apocalyptics (rape and torture).

The “humanity bringing about its own end” theme is very heavy, right down to the fact that the zombified humans will, more than anything, focus on and chase down anything that’s an active electronic (particularly cell phones). This isn’t necessarily a negative–it’s appropriate to the book, but some people will like it and others won’t, so I mention it for that reason.

The narrative occasionally takes a side jaunt so we can see through the eyes of Winnie the Poodle, Genghis Cat, a polar bear, or the Mother Tree. Pretty much the only animals we don’t experience this way are the freed zoo animals, who definitely have a few roles to play in events. This is really interesting, and never lasts long enough to interrupt the flow of the novel.

Apart from the slow portion in the middle, I really enjoyed this book, and would heartily recommend it!

So there we were. A rejected crow with an identity crisis partnering a bloodhound with an IQ of boiled pudding. We were perhaps the most pathetic excuse for an attempted murder on the face of the earth.

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