ST is concerned about his owner Big Jim when his eyeball falls out and lands in the grass. He should be, considering that Big Jim has just turned into a zombie thanks to a mysterious virus that travels through screens. When it becomes clear that cheering Big Jim up with his favourite beer and a bag of Cheetos isn’t going to help, ST (a domesticated crow) and Dennis (a dog) set out across the wilds of post-apocalyptic Seattle to find a cure.
On his journey, ST encounters hordes of vicious humans who are suffering from the same malady as Big Jim. He braves a deadly market (for doughnuts), the aquarium (for answers) and follows cryptic rumours of the one remaining human who can save them all. ST must set aside his fears to find a way forward in this new, and often frightening world.
I read Hollow Kingdom before COVID-19 was a phrase in my everyday life. I can remember thinking that I was glad there wasn’t some deadly virus on the loose, because gosh, wouldn’t that be awful? At the time, it kind of felt like it would be the end of the world. I’m a germaphobe, so I don’t handle sickness very well on a good day. Throw in a worldwide pandemic and you’ve got a recipe for this girl to never leave her house again. I didn’t, for awhile.
But if ST can face his fears in a zombie-infested world, I can sure as heck set foot outside. It’s funny how horror stories can have the opposite effect of real fear. Instead of making us want to hide, it makes us bolder to know that even if the worst, most terrifying thing were to happen, there would be a way forward. Horror gives us hope.
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton. Grand Central Publishing, August 2019.
Reviewer bio: Lauren Mead has been published in The Danforth Review, The MacGuffin, Soliloquies and Forest for the Trees. She also writes for her blog, www.novelshrink.com.
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