by Kira Jane Buxton
Published August 2019
As a rule, I prefer my apocalypse fiction sans zombies. Which is a little odd, given how much I love my lady necromancer books. But something about uncontrolled hordes of zombies gives me nightmares, almost every time.
Hollow Kingdom is a rare exception. In a way, that’s logical; this is NOT your average zombie apocalypse story! For one, it’s told from the viewpoint of a crow. While it’s possible he could be killed by a zombie, he’s not going to get turned into one. As they explain in the book, this is an evolutionary change, not a contagious virus-like change. Which is another way in which it’s different than normal zombies. The book also focuses on S.T. (it’s short for Shit Turd!) and his bloodhound companion, Dennis, trying to survive in the new world, rather than your average survivors-fighting-off-zombies and trying not to get turned themselves.
It also might just be the sardonic humor with which S.T. views the world. He calls humans “MoFos” because that’s what his owner called other humans. Most other animals call them Hollows because they can’t access the Aura – a kind of communication network that animals can tap into to talk to one another.
S.T. is an incredible character, straddling the human and animal worlds and not quite belonging in either. He flits across Seattle, searching for answers to what has befallen the MoFos, hitting various popular landmarks (my Friday 56 addresses his visit to Pike Place Market!) and encountering a huge variety of animals in his journey. Every animal has their own personality; it’s incredibly well done.
The author attempts world-building; there are a couple of seemingly random, very brief chapters detailing the experiences of other animals in wildly different locations, but the book is mostly based in Seattle with S.T. and his friends. It only detracts from the story a very minor amount; the characterization of S.T., Dennis, Kraai, Ghubari, and many others are where the story shines.
I honestly loved this book. I picked it up despite the plotline, because it was told from the viewpoint of a crow, and I love crows. I’m so glad I did, because this is really, really excellent, and there are so few zombie stories I will say that about!
From the cover of Hollow Kingdom:
S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures. He spends his days hanging out with his owner, Big Jim; avoiding the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis; trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows; binge-watching nature documentaries; and binge-eating the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos®.
Then, on a beautiful summer evening, Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn’t quite right. When his tried-and-true remedies – from beak-delivered beer to an inventive cocktail of stolen pharmacy drugs – fail to bring Big Jim back to health, S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out with his trusty steed, Dennis, to find a cure.
Outside the safety of his home, the city of Seattle is a wild and frightening new world. Big Jim’s neighbors, victims of the same mysterious malady, are now devouring everything warm-blooded in their path, and the once orderly suburbs have become feral jungles. Meanwhile, local wildlife is abuzz with cryptic rumors, which the cowardly S.T. has no choice but to follow if he wants to rescue the only world he knows from certain destruction.
Brimming with hope and heart, this irrepressible debut introduces humanity’s improbable hero in the form of a foulmouthed crow with a moderate-to-severe junk food addiction, who believes that – despite all its flaws – the world is worth saving.