Eric Boss reviews HOLLOW KINGDOM

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
Grand Central

This is a zombie apocalypse novel, but not like you may think. It’s a thoughtful look at us and what we’re doing to ourselves and the planet. The fact that it is loaded with quirky wry humor is simply a bonus. The narration by a highly perspicacious crow puts much of the worldview into a unique perspective that informs the story with an animal’s take on humans.

S.T. (I’ll let you discover what the initials stand for) is a tame, trained crow living with Big Jim, a beer-drinking TV watcher who disdains most of polite society’s norms but is good to his crow and to his sad-eyed bloodhound, Dennis. Together they eat, drink and revel in the natural world in a surprisingly sensitive way. Much of what S.T. believes puts him at odds with the rest of the birds, crows most especially (he thinks they’re all idiots). When Big Jim begins to disintegrate before his eyes, the clever corvid must start making all the decisions for himself and Dennis and things get exciting.

S.T. is a great admirer of humankind and thinks that everything it has done to and for the planet is good, without exception. This attitude does not serve him well as everything descends into chaos and worse. People are now actively destroying each other, structures and anything that prevents them from accessing what they most desperately want: online access with wi-fi and 5G speed. It’s now up to the animal kingdom to save what’s left and to restore peace so that life can go on. They band together across species and phyla to create a new order without the influence of homo erectus.

Part science fiction, part thriller, part environmental polemic but with a sweetness at the core that celebrates the nearly magical web of communication between creatures, plants and elements, the points are well taken and convincingly enumerated. A lesson hidden in a jelly-filled donut. There are a few truly scientific notions touched upon, especially those concerning the transmission of information within the natural world. I loved this one for its ultimately gentle message delivered with a shock of electricity.

Shelf Talker: The zombie apocalypse is upon the world and it’s up to a tamed sentient crow to save what’s left of it. His remarkably erratic odyssey is funny, scary and thought-provoking.