Narrator: Robert Petkoff
Published by Hachette Audio on August 6, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction Fantasy
Length: 10 hours, 11 minutes
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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 (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.
Then Big Jim's eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn't quite right. His most 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 discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity's extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.
The zombie apocalypse according to a crow. Yup, you read that right. Imagine a world where technology-obsessed humans, become drooling incoherent zombies who might be whipped into a frenzy at any moment by a shiny screen or a ringing phone? Nobody saw this coming, especially not S.T., a domesticated crow, and the hero/narrator of this story.
Hollow Kingdom, the debut novel by Kira Jane Buxton, is a significant departure from the books I normally read and review. The novel showed up in Anne’s TBR pile, and I was immediately drawn to the shiny black crow on its bright green, beautifully illustrated cover. (I see the irony here.)
When his owner, the ever-classy Big Jim, succumbs to the mind-numbing virus, it is up to S.T., with his unique understanding of Mofos (humans), and Big Jim’s other companion, a slobbering bloodhound named Dennis, to find out what is going on. S.T. enlists Dennis, despite his ‘weapons-grade incompetence’, in finding animals trapped inside the Mofos’ homes and kicks off a series of adventures that gain them ‘legend’ status. Beyond the lessons about humanity’s hubris and the pitfalls of technology, Hollow Kingdom is a tale of friendship, survival and self-discovery. It is a little super-hero meets Robin Hood, only the hero is a foul-mouthed, Cheeto-loving crow.
There is a sweet sadness to the reality S.T. faces. He feels alone in his grief over the demise of humanity, and struggles with his prejudiced, disparaging view of his own kind, not to mention some other avian species. In order to face down threats from predators, both new and old, S.T. works with the very species he’s always disdained. Although he comes to understand and appreciate other birds and animals, he cannot agree that the world is better off without the Mofos. Contrasted against the nature of wild animals, S.T. is a testament to what is best in human nature, the ability to care for others and to think beyond survival and propagation.
One can’t help but love S.T. and his misguided reverence for all things human. The narration is filled with animal puns, social commentary, and witty one-liners that had me snickering throughout the entire book. But at the same time, this is a poignant story filled with heartache, loss, love, loyalty, and friendship. It’s a cautionary, tongue-in-cheek tale with heroes and villains of all sizes and species.
I absolutely adored this book. Although this is an audio review from a library copy, I’ve since purchased both versions and read the book in electronic format. I’ve made my entire family listen to the audio or read the ebook, and insisted several of my friends read it as well. I believe you will either love or hate Hollow Kingdom after the first chapter, although I encourage you to at least read chapter 4, narrated by my 2nd favorite character, Genghis Cat.
Robert Petkoff does a fantastic job as the narrator. He not only gives character to S.T.’s voice, he brought to life all of the supporting characters and ‘guest’ narrators and made them easy to distinguish from one another. I was impressed with how he delivered some of the most ridiculous lines with such matter-of-factness; I can’t imagine this was an easy book to narrate without laughing out loud.
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