August 2019 Indie Next List
— Dena Kurt, River Lights Bookstore, Dubuque, IA
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Winter 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List
— Lauren Suidgeest, Schuler Books (Grand Rapids), Grand Rapids, MI
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"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?
Praise For Hollow Kingdom…
"A plucky hero, a boisterous tale, startling prose and eerie events combine for a thoroughly enjoyable account of the end of the world as we know it. The Secret Life of Pets meets The Walking Dead."—Karen Joy Fowler, PEN/Faulkner Award-winningauthor of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
"I love this book so much! I wanted to set it on fire while hugging it. I wanted to hasten the apocalypse just to see how my own pets fare in a more humane world without humans. Kira Jane Buxton's voice is fresh, like a newly dug grave, but so joyful and honest you'll laugh out loud, and then check to make sure you haven't lost an eyeball. Hollow Kingdom is a wildly original debut and a paean to my favorite city."—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author ofHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
"Hollow Kingdom offers a bird's-eye view of the apocalypse we all want and need-especially when the bird in question is a plucky, Cheeto-loving domesticated crow . . . With infinite heart and humor, Kira Jane Buxton's fine-feathered narrator guides us through richly imagined animal realms while braving the terrifying collapse of the human world. A dazzling, wholly original debut, revealing the great paradox of humanity's fatal flaws and resilient spirit."—Mona Awad, authorof 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl and Bunny
"Everything you're hearing about Kira Jane Buxton's Hollow Kingdom--that it's wildly original and inventive, funny and profane--is wonderfully true. But even better, this book is timely, smart, movingly written, and beautifully concluded."—Laurie Frankel, author of This isHow It Always Is and member of the Seattle7 Writers
"What a surprising,
funny, terrifying, marvelous, wholly original novel! Buxton combines a vivid
horror show (think zombies and the gruesome, bloody extinction of man) with a
touching love story between the unlikeliest of BFFs: a crow, a hound, and a man
who's had a tough go of things on Tinder, and that was before his eyeball fell
out. With humor and a style that brings to mind Tom Robbins and Karen Russell,
Buxton's debut is heartwarming and heart stopping, hilarious and tragic."—Amy Poeppel, author of Limelight and Small Admissions
"A hilariously exuberant and heart-bursting fable for our times, Hollow Kingdom reminds us that creativity and determination (and a whole lot of love) can go a long way toward saving the world. When Mr. Rogers said to look for the helpers, who knew that might mean a salty-mouthed crow and a faithful bloodhound?"—Jennie Shortridge, bestselling author of LoveWater Memory and member of the Seattle7 Writers
"If you've ever thought that humans were the ones in charge, Kira Jane Buxton's groundbreaking novel will have you thinking otherwise. Full of unforgettable humor, insight and beauty, Hollow Kingdom enriches our human experience by inhabiting the minds (and bellies!) of our non-human animal companions and reminding us that we're not alone here on this earth."—Ruth Ozeki, nationally bestselling author of A Tale for the Time Being
"Hollow Kingdom is a grown-up's Watership Down for our times -- or the end of them. Kira Jane Buxton has created a crow so full of personality you won't even miss the company of humans, who are devolving at hyper-speed rates into something sub-literate and grotesque. But Buxton shows there's humor in our plight and strength in tenderness, and she portrays the intelligence and astounding beauty of the natural world in a completely fresh way. This book is a triumphant feat of imagination, and it had me believing that the bonds we've formed with our pets might help them save us after all. I'll never look at a corvid the same way again."—Zoe Zolbrod, author ofThe Telling and Currency and former editor at The Rumpus
"Wow. Hilarious or horrifying? Sassy or wise? Hollow Kingdom is a surprise and a marvel: a razor sharp and satisfying warning about the coming apocalypse, told by one of the most engaging narrators I have met in a long time. Good fiction makes you think. It turns you upside down and makes you realize that you recognize the world from that vantage point. Hollow Kingdom is that good fiction, and so much more."
—Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, author of Shadow Child
"In a global pandemic that infects only humans, how would our pets and other captive animals survive? How would nature remake our environments? Remake us? Hilarious, fantastical, inspiring, and at times heartbreaking, this work could change the way you look at life around you. At the very least, you'll fall in love with the crow protagonist and narrator, S.T."—Melanie Cade, owner of independent bookstore Mojo Books & Records (Tampa)
"Buxton spins a fresh, alarming apocalypse from the perspectives of intelligent, communicative animals in her hilarious debut . . . 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."—Publishers Weekly
A "joyfully original approach to apocalyptic fiction . . . 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."—NPR
"Buxton's quirky ideas and compelling nonhuman characters will satisfy literary fiction and zombie genre enthusiasts alike who are looking for something beguilingly different."—Booklist (Starred Review)
"Hollow Kingdom combines dark subject matter with an oddball sense of humor in what proves to be a winning formula . . . 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."—Shelf Awareness
"Surprisingly tender, laugh-out-loud funny, and deliciously strange . . . a joy to read."—BuzzFeed
"Pick up this delightfully weird book for a change from the usual--we promise it's like nothing you've read before."—Good Housekeeping
"Kira Jane Buxton's hilariously philosophical and formidable first novel tackles humankind's most existential questions . . . 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."—BookPage (Starred Review)
"[Hollow Kingdom] has a lot to say about humanity and the impact we are having on the planet, but it also shows that there is hope. Experiencing the story from the perspective of the animals was a pretty cool experience."—BookRiot
"Literary debuts don't get much more high-concept than this."—Entertainment Weekly
"A call to liberate ourselves from our own domestication . . . 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 re-wilding."—The Nerd Daily
"The sense of place is amazing -- everything feels completely authentic and lived in . . . When I got to the last chapter I dragged my feet (metaphorically), knowing that for every page I read there was one less page to read."—Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
"Beautifully written and hilarious, science fiction and zombie horror and serious literature, and seemingly by accident kind of virtuous -- almost shockingly good-hearted and inspiring. No ordinary (you know, entirely alive) humans are featured here, but the animals, and in particular a certain domesticated crow who is our foul-mouthed narrator, are wicked funny and irresistibly endearing."—Sullivan County Democrat
Grand Central Publishing, 9781538745823, 320pp.
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. In what ways is S.T. caught between the MoFo world and the world of nature? How does this affect his sense of self? How does it both benefit and impair him at various points in the novel?
2. S.T.’s relationship with Dennis evolves from S.T.’s deprecation and occasional hostility to a pure and loving friendship. In what ways do the unlikely duo complement each other? What do you think their bond stems from?
3. What other unlikely symbiotic relationships exist in the novel? What about in the real world?
4. Kraai initially claims that S.T. is “caged and clipped,” an idea that S.T. angrily rejects. However, S.T. later loses his ability to fly due to a wing injury. How is this significant to S.T.’s character and place in the world?
5. Consider the way the natural world communicates and how rumors spread in this novel. How are Aura, Echo, and Web similar and different to methods of human communication?
6. Although he is absent for most of the story, Big Jim is periodically portrayed through flashbacks. How does his character develop and evolve through S.T.’s memories? How does your perception of Big Jim change throughout the novel?
7. S.T. often wonders at the ingenuity of humans, from inventions like Cheetos® and hot dog–eating competitions to “how even though MoFos weren’t born with wings, they made their own and put them on airplanes and maxi pads, and […] how they flushed all their poops out to Echo” (chapter 37). How does this reverence compare to his feelings for the natural world? Can you think of moments where S.T. displays the same awe for nature?
8. Besides Cheetos®, what do you think are the best inventions and characteristics of humanity? Of nature?
9. Why do you think the book is titled Hollow Kingdom?
10. Who is your favorite character? Why?