Kira Jane Buxton's debut, Hollow Kingdom, offers a unique, oddly hopeful perspective on the end of human civilization ... In its broadest strokes, Hollow Kingdom is an environmentalist parable ... If this all sounds very weighty, it's important to emphasize that Hollow Kingdom is an extremely funny, occasionally silly book. The reader will need to possess an appreciation—or, at least, a tolerance—for copious animal puns ... S.T.'s witty commentary is a highlight of the book, though so frequently profane that it resists quotation. What makes Hollow Kingdom special is the ease with which Buxton offsets heavy themes with humor. At the heart of the novel is an entertaining adventure story ... S.T.'s relationship with Dennis achieves pathos and an incredibly earned emotional denouement that I would have never predicted at the start of the novel. Hollow Kingdom is a surprising, funny, genre-bending novel, an environmentalist parable crossed with an epic adventure story, difficult to describe and even more difficult to put down.
Buxton’s story about the collapse of mankind...though based around the extinction of man is not your average zombie story. It’s less a story about the end of the world as we know it, as it is a call to liberate ourselves from our own domestication, much like that which S.T. and his companions face. It’s a critical look at the impact the human ego has had on the environment and the cost we’ll leave to future inhabitants, human or otherwise, to pay. And, it’s told from the perspective of a life force we’ve caged as wholly as we’ve caged ourselves, making it a poignant portrayal of the beauty we fail to see around us on an everyday basis as well as a stark glimpse of the future we are already carving out for ourselves. For all its sharp edges and gritty no-punches-pulled humor, Hollow Kingdom is a remarkably tender story that manages to make you feel just a tiny bit jealous of the resilient cast of characters that have survived humanity's apocalypse. It’s a magnum opus on environmental degradation, an expose on the impact of technological dependency, and—above all else—a testament to the bizarre and indelicate beauty of rewilding. (And, I would be remiss without adding, it is the single most beautiful ode to the infallible and unconditional companionship of dog I might have ever read.)
...[a] hilariously philosophical and formidable first novel ... World annihilation doesn’t necessarily make for a fun read, except perhaps when told by a domesticated crow that has watched a lot of TV and thinks himself half-human. Equally fascinating is the odd squad of dogs, cats and other birds who have joined S.T. in this post-apocalyptic odyssey ... Buxton does a stellar job of anthropomorphizing the novel’s animals and adding drama, suspense, tragedy and hope. It’s amazing that such a bizarre and far-fetched story can connect so deeply with our reality and its discussions about social media, climate change, immigration and self-identity. It doesn’t get any weirder, funnier or better than Hollow Kingdom.
... Buxton takes a joyfully original approach to apocalyptic fiction ... don't read this book while you're eating if you're squeamish. Buxton is extremely talented at writing the more horrifying descriptions of the MoFos' physical condition ... S.T. is a brilliant narrator, partially because he has reverence for human things like Cheetos and baked goods and football fandom, but also because he has only half a grasp on what certain human things mean ... But S.T.'s love of MoFos, and the deep ache he feels for Big Jim and the life he used to lead read as incredibly sincere ... While it's deeply disconcerting, reading about our own extinction, there is a lot we can learn from S.T. and Dennis the dog's symbiotic relationship in this novel. There's a lot we can learn from S.T.'s getting over his own prejudices about other animals — like seagulls and penguins — in order to work with them ... S.T. ultimately gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, we still have a chance to turn things around before Nature is so fed up that she really does set her sights on destroying us for good.
I was skeptical going in, because I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to relate to a domesticated crow. There was also this nagging feeling that Hollow Kingdom just couldn't possibly work. I mean, how could it? A trash-talking crow? Zombies? All wrapped in social commentary and an environmentalist slant? No way...But, against all odds, Buxton pulls it off ... First of all, the book is very funny. At times, I'd even whip out the word hilarious, which I don't do very often. And Buxton really knows her animals ... the real trick is how invested we become in S.T.'s quest ... terrifying and poignant ... magical ... It wasn't just the funny lines; it was the palpable sense of despair and wonder and excitement that S.T. experiences along the way ... that is the final trick of the novel and why it is so successful: It is real. It doesn't matter that the plot is populated with crows and dogs and cats. We can see ourselves in them. Despite its grim apocalyptic proclamations, Hollow Kingdom remains joyously hopeful. S.T.’s quest to find himself is a statement on loyalty and resilience: or, as we Hollows would call it, being human.
Kira Jane Buxton’s Hollow Kingdom is likely to bewitch quite a lot of readers. It uses breakneck adventure, unusual apocalyptic circumstances, and the natural allure of an intelligent animal world to appeal. The book has generous sprinkles of both humor and pathos, and extraordinarily lavish descriptions which characterize both the author and the world she builds. However, the whole experiment of this novel rests on the beak of its quirky narrator, a crow named S.T., and if he fails to charm, so, too, does the book ... descriptions, heavy with verbiage, may be found on nearly every page of Hollow Kingdom. The result is both tantalizing and exhausting, but that is true for the novel as a whole as well, especially with regard to its narrator ... Ultimately, Hollow Kingdom is a pleasing novel with the same ups and downs, the same gains and losses, as any classic pet adventure ... Despite the failures of its execution—the descriptions and narration make it overlong, the environmental messages can feel obvious—the novel will succeed with animal lovers and fans of light apocalypse literature alike.
In this play on a zombie uprising tale, Buxton's dark humor takes center stage. The Seattle references and stereotypes will especially amuse Pacific Northwesterners ... Though some aspects of the plot, including a divinatory octopus, present as colorless, the overall fresh, quirky tone and content will interest animal lovers and fans of regional books featuring sardonic wit, such as Lish McBride's Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and anthropomorphized characters à la W. Bruce Cameron's A Dog's Purpose.
While S.T.’s floridly descriptive, expletive-laden narration sometimes feels self-indulgent, Buxton’s quirky ideas and compelling nonhuman characters will satisfy literary fiction and zombie genre enthusiasts alike who are looking for something beguilingly different
It’s an intriguing and fun premise that starts with a strong and saucy voice, but this debut novel gets very muddled very quickly. In lieu of giving her lively animal characters a rich narrative arc, the author focuses too heavily on not-so-subtle morality tales about every injustice and environmental crisis in the world today. The science is messy, wins feel too easy, and losses don’t cut as deeply as they’re meant to, though it's possibly saved by witty one-liners and the author’s sharp take on a bird’s eye-view of Seattle. A heavy-handed zombie apocalypse-meets-nature documentary meant to inspire humans to do better, but it loses its way.
Buxton spins a fresh, alarming apocalypse from the perspectives of intelligent, communicative animals in her hilarious debut ... Amid S.T.’s adventure, a variety of animals both tame and wild share moving ruminations on the end of humanity. S.T.’s complicated personality and the masterful blend of humorous and tragic make this novel an eloquent, emotional exploration of survival during an unthinkable cataclysm.