Review of Hollow Kingdom and Feral Creatures

Cheryl

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Review of the first two (we hope there will be more) books in the Hollow Kingdom Series by Kira Jane Buxton: Hollow Kingdom and Feral Creatures.

You might like these books if you like: crows, zombies, apocalytic fiction, animals, nature, Cheetos and/or Seattle.

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Review of Hollow Kingdom and Feral CreaturesHollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
Series: Hollow Kingdom #1
Published by Grand Central Publishing on August 6, 2019
Genres: Fiction / Animals, Fiction / Fantasy / Humorous, Fiction / Literary, Fiction / Science Fiction / Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic
Pages: 320
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

A finalist for the 2020 Thurber Prize for American Humor!

"The Secret Life of Pets meets The Walking Dead" in this big-hearted, boundlessly beautiful romp through the Apocalypse, where a foul-mouthed crow is humanity's only chance to survive Seattle's zombie problem (Karen Joy Fowler, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning 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 (i.e. "those idiots"), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

But when Big Jim's eyeball falls out of his head, S.T. starts to think something's not quite right. His 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 suddenly discovers that the neighbors are devouring one other. Local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of Seattle's dangerous new predators.

Humanity's extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a cowardly crow whose only knowledge of the world comes from TV.

What could possibly go wrong?

Includes a Reading Group Guide.

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Review of Hollow Kingdom and Feral CreaturesFeral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton
Series: Hollow Kingtom #2
Published by Grand Central Publishing on August 24, 2021
Genres: Fiction / Animals, Fiction / Fantasy / Humorous, Fiction / Literary, Fiction / Science Fiction / Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic
Pages: 320
Format: Audiobook, eBook, Hardcover, Paperback
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MOST ANTICIPATED by Bustle • "Sci-Fi Thriller" recommendation from Buzzfeed • An Indie Next Pick

In this stunning follow-up to Hollow Kingdom and Seattle Times/Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association bestseller​, the animal kingdom's "favorite apocalyptic hero"is back with a renewed sense of hope for humanity, ready to take on a world ravaged by a viral pandemic (Helen Macdonald).

Once upon an apocalypse, there lived an obscenely handsome American crow named S.T. . . .
 
When the world last checked-in with its favorite Cheeto addict, the planet had been overrun by flesh-hungry beasts, and nature had started re-claiming her territory from humankind. S.T., the intrepid crow, alongside his bloodhound-bestie Dennis, had set about saving pets that had become trapped in their homes after humanity went the way of the dodo.
 
That is, dear reader, until S.T. stumbled upon something so rare—and so precious—that he vowed to do everything in his power to safeguard what could, quite literally, be humanity's last hope for survival. But in a wild world plagued by prejudiced animals, feather-raising environments, new threats so terrifying they make zombies look like baby bunnies, and a horrendous dearth of cheesy snacks, what's a crow to do?
 
Why, wing it on another big-hearted, death-defying adventure, that's what! Joined by a fabulous new cast of animal characters, S.T. faces many new challenges plus his biggest one yet: parenthood.

Includes a Reading Group Guide.

Hollow Kingdom Book Review

S.T. 1 is a Cheeto©-loving crow with huge problems on his wings.

Something is very wrong with his MoFo (human) Big Jim. Big Jim has started to act strange, craning his neck forward, then losing his eyeball on the front lawn of the Craftsman-style home in Ravenna where they live.

S.T. finds that strange things are happening to the other humans as well. After Big Jim goes on the attack when his iPhone is activated, S.T. realizes he needs to get himself and Dennis, Big Jim’s big, lovable — but dumb — dog out of there quick.

Thus commences Hollow Kingdom, the first in a (so far) two-book series by Seattle author Kira Jane Buxton that’s a weird but (mostly) lovable mixture of zombie/apocalypic fiction, humor, and paean to nature.

As we follow S.T. and Dennis’ adventures as they search for what has happened to the MoFos and try to find the mysterious “One Who Opens Doors,” we meet several other anthropomorphized animals. Among them, the sock-drawer-raiding Genghis Cat whose mediocre servants have also been affected, a small dog with a big heart, and the college crows of UW Bothell.

I loved it that she included the college crows that congregate at the field of UW Bothell every night. I always wonder what those nightly murder parties were all about. 2 And finding a giant pacific octopus in the mix3 made me love the books event more.

Aside from comedy and horror, Buxton conveys a real love for nature in these books. The text verges into the territory of nature poetry at times, particularly when we see through the eyes of various creatures or read about how one part of the ecosystem connects with another. The world of Aura — trees and birds, connects with the world of Web — earth and ground, which connects with the world of Echo — creatures of the water.4

What drew me to Hollow Kingdom in the first place was its bright-green cover featuring a crow’s head and image of the Seattle skyline beckoning to me from the bookstore shelf. I adore books that feature familiar places, and Hollow Kingdom and Feral Creatures were full of them from the Woodland Park Zoo to the Seattle Aquqrium, to UW Bothell, to the intersection of 164th Street, to the Edmonds fountain.

What lost me, at times, was the manner of humanity’s decline and my feeling that the books were teetering on the precipice of preachiness, if not falling over it. The book — and the actions of its MoFos — heavily imply that its zombie-apocalypse-like pandemic stemmed from a “technology-induced virus.” Steven King’s “Cell” came to mind.

The affected MoFos crane their necks forward grotesquely, relentlessly searching for anything resembling a screen. I explain the plot to my daughter, and she rolls her eyes and declares, “Screen Bad!” I feel a bit the same bit of irritation. But I’ll admit, I feel it as I sit here with my iPad, my laptop, my phone, my neck craning grotequely forward…

It’s hard to do a two-book review without giving spoilers. It may be a bit spoiler-ish but I can say that Book 1 ends up holding out a tiny spark of hope for humanity and leads us away, for a time, from Washington State to see S.T. trying to do his best to save MoFos (and their language and culture) in Feral Creatures. And it introduces us to even more, well, feral creatures, from Snowy Owls to members of the local pod of orcas.

I cannot give books that made me laugh out loud so hard that I almost choked on my crackers (and, no, they weren’t Triscuits) less than four stars. These books, particuarly the first one, were as hilarious as a zombie apolcalypse can be, touching as an homage to the natural world, and S.T. is a very engaging narrator.

I hope S.T. and friends will be returning for a third round. I’m keeping a bag of Cheetos at the ready for the event.

Recommended.

Note that if you’re interested in other books set in Seattle, we wrote a list of them here.

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  1. Short for “S**t Turd” which already tells you something about this book and about Big Jim.[]
  2. My daughter sometimes sends me text of the thick corvid flock making their annual evening journey to Bothell over her apartment.[]
  3. Is this the same one that crawled out of its enclosure at the Seattle Aquarium a few years back?[]
  4. Did you know that Seagulls serve as intermediaries? I knew they had some sort of function other than eating garbage and dirtying my windshield![]

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Cheryl

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Currently: doing this blog, photographing, cycling, and building a bike.
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