Book Club October: Better read with a bag of Cheetos™

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Fireblend, Oct 27, 2019.

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What did you think?

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  1. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Welcome to MafiEra's book club discussion for October. This month, we read:

    Hollow Kingdom
    by Kira Jane Buxton

    [​IMG]

    Personally I really enjoyed it and can't wait to read some impressions. I vow to try and be more active in this thread, and will provide my thoughts later, but unfortunately I can't right now. Will contribute as soon as possible :D

    What I'll say is, I wouldn't mind a sequel, though.
     
  2. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    I haven't finished yet(about last 3 chapters), but I have liked it so far. I think the best points are when tension is built up and the touching moments, for example this paragraph is one of my favorites

    In my opinion its biggest weakness its how verbose it constantly felt, I wanted to get more of Dennis and S.T. but was constantly bombed with description and flora, fauna and Seattle landmarks I don't know nor relate to, that hindering my will to keep pushing through it.

    I think it would had been helped from skimming some 50 or 100 pages
     
  3. Zippedpinhead

    Zippedpinhead I'm a wee bit mad at Weemad

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    Oh boy I liked it. Full impressions coming, but I really felt that ST had a great heroes journey
     
  4. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    Finished finally

    At first I thought it would be a denser read as all the seemingly superfluous jokes would get old pretty fast, but I was gladly surprised when plenty of them were Chekhov's gunned. Dennis' hope of keeping his balls, Tiffany S. from Tinder, keeping stashes of treasures, etc, etc. Not only were them good puns that mostly landed, they helped the setting and characterization. World building is hard, doing it through humor must be harder and this novel does it very well.

    I think this shows clearly from the picture of Big Jim we are revealed little by little. Big Jim was S.T.'s hero but we as readers get that he is a fairly average man and somewhat of a troglodyte, this used as a humorous contrast between the narrator and us, but by mean of joke-y flashbacks we are told the Big Jim-Tiffany S. arc, that I liked very much and it was poignant to the development of S.T. thought the present timeline, at first always looking after numero uno and later progressing towards accepting Dennis and the crows as his murder.

    Does anyone have other thoughts on the matter?
     
  5. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    I 100% agree about the most touching moments being all highlights. ST's descriptions of family life are so heartwarming, so genuine and wholesome, but they're intelligently held back most of the time and only revealed sparingly, making them feel very weighty which I liked. And his grief remains on the forefront of at least the first half of the novel, which did tug at my heart effectively.

    The book to me is very much about dealing with grief and loss, and finding who you are beyond the confines of family. The evolution ST goes through from denying his "birdness" to finding out that part of his identity can be reconciled with the humanity he picked up from Big Jim is also very interesting to me.

    Big Jim's characterization was a bit of all over the place but that seemed like it was intended. His language, eating habits, and at least his opinions about environmentalism point to him being a generic 'murica guy, but the book also hints a whole lot at some sympathetic "fundamental goodness", specially as the Tiffany S. story reaches its conclusion, and he obviously cares about ST and Dennis.

    Also, I really liked the ending. I was feeling down on the last quarter of the book or so because of plot reasons, but I feel like that last epilogue really redeemed that part and honestly give me that sequel.

    Jungle book with a girl raised by crows in a post apocalypse setting? Yes please.
     
  6. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    What did everyone think of the animal-centric chapters away from ST sprinkled thought the book? Honestly other than like 2 they felt super forgettable to me and really didn't do the sort of worldbuilding I would have liked from them.
     
  7. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    Those other POVs were hit and miss for me, I liked Genghis Cat, Winnie the Poodle and Angus? the Cow. The one with the South Korean nuclear plant going boom was ok, the others forgettable imo
     
  8. Zippedpinhead

    Zippedpinhead I'm a wee bit mad at Weemad

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    Genghis cat, Winnie the poodle, I liked the two for the polar bear on the ice.

    they were nice “breather episodes”. Ancillary you’re the plot, but world building and free of “stakes”. Since you don’t know if it’s a one off or not your stake in the character is low, so whatever happens you just roll with it. Sometimes they click, like with genghis cat, and others they miss (like the armadillo in the American south... I KNOW everything east of the Mississippi will be covered in kudzu without people already we didn’t need a chapter about it)
     
  9. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Another thing I don't think particularly landed for me was the "technological" aspect of whatever it was that finished humanity off. It came across as a bit preachy, it wasn't ever satisfactorily explained why humans reacted to technology like that or why they were looking for screens other than the very superficial "technology bad" angle.

    Maybe the author intended to distance themselves from the usual zombie plague origin story but the mutated humans in the last quarter or so of the book did a way better job of that and also felt really disconnected with that screens/cellphones thing.
     
  10. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    I actually liked the smartphone induced pandemic, although I must point that from the beginning I expected the book to be solely about S.T.'s personal growth so any explanation was a nice addendum on top on my part.

    Enjoying the puzzle aspect to it particularly, zombies with unusual long necks, Big Jim wearing his finger down on a wall, him going crazy at the phone ringing, the MoFos smashing their heads on windows and the creative solutions S.T. comes with (who better than a crow to look for shinny things), also the book being thematically about reconnecting to nature it kinda fits.
     
  11. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    From the interview at the end:

    So maybe that sequel is coming
     
  12. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    I did notice that, and I'm totally on board :D

    Also, how come ST was so into pop culture yet didn't recognize an obvious zombie apocalypse scenario? :P
     
  13. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

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    I thought I read this was now/going to be a trilogy?

    Anyway I started late so I'm not done - I was reading a book that had an immediate sequel, so I finished that, read the sequel, and really only started this a few days ago! I'm really enjoying it so far, though. Some really good moments and I feel like it's written with a lot of empathy, which is both interesting considering the POV and something I feel has been missing from most of our picks so far. :/ The emotions ST goes through and how his care and concern for the "people" in his life comes through his seemingly bratty shell are great.

    I sent the passage about the crows at UW Bothell to my bestie, who just got a job there. She said she'd send me crow videos because it's v accurate.
     
  14. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    So I read this a few days ago. The mofo thing doesn't outstay its welcome surprisingly. But this is basically Cell from an animal's point of view. And Cell was already an aggressively mediocre book from the beginning. My biggest problem was that all of ST's growth happens basically lightning quick within a few sentences or pages at the most. And the thing with Dennis was dumb af.
     
  15. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    I haven't read anything about trilogy plans, but it could be interesting, I agree on the empathy part, overall the book feels very wholesome

    What's Cell and the problem with it? Why it parallels to Hollow Kingdom?

    I think the progression is fine, the times where S.T. faces life or death situations eased me into accepting speedy changes of heart, in nature there is no time to indulge on self-reflection.

    Why? I thought he was a nice execution of the of a silent sidekick to showcase S.T.'s talkative nature
     
  16. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    Another thing I liked were the "fight" scenes, the movements were portrayed in a accurate and dynamic way, really helped to get me into them, the 3D aspect of crow movement literally made me think "this shit just became Attack on Titan" for a second during the mamma bear fight

    Someone phone up Cheetos® to produce an animated series
     
  17. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

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    That bear fight was SO TENSE.
     
  18. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    I really don't agree with the thing about ST's growth; he's very empathetic from the beginning, goes from caring a whole lot for his family (his relationship with Dennis I thought came across as very brotherly, from squabbling while living at home to becoming true friends when leaving it), and his relationship with the animal kingdom is strained by how overwhelming his grief is until he slowly comes to rely on others and accept his "crow" side as acceptance settles in. I actually think the way ST evolves throughout the book felt really well executed.
     
  19. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Yeah there are some really neat descriptions not only in hostile encounters but in the general descriptions of ST's maneuvering when in flight.
     
  20. Sawneeks

    Sawneeks Queen Doppelpopolis

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    So I'm only at Chapter 12 in the book and haven't really felt the need or desire to pick it back up and finish it. I enjoyed the earlier chapters around S.T. trying to save Big Jim, learning about the fall of humanity, and the reality he had to face when he and Dennis were no longer welcome in their own home. However throughout that whole opening I was chafing against the humor of the book and really just going along out of interest in the story itself so when that aspect fell off I kinda...stopped.

    The MoFos gag, Cheetos, and S.T.'s interpretation of some of our modern tech were alright but it was the dick jokes around Dennis and Jim, the Squirrels, shit jokes (including S.T.'s name), and the like that just never landed for me at all. The subtle issues that are brought up but never fully acknowledged didn't help either like the not-so-subtle rape hints with the dogs in Seattle and S.T.'s whole 'being born in the wrong body' thing. The book felt more ready to talk about the dangers of smartphones than to talk about either of those in any constuctive way so I question why those are even brought up. Maybe this changes later, I don't know.

    But I kinda feel like I'm nitpicking stuff. I went into this book not fully realizing how much of a comedic tale it was going to be so I think my initial perceptions were thrown off. I'm also....not a fan of comedic entertainment? Stuff like sitcoms, comedy movies, and stand-up have never clicked for me because I find them too forced or just generally not very funny so this seems to fall under the same group. :<
     
  21. Sawneeks

    Sawneeks Queen Doppelpopolis

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    would either of you be willing to summarize the Tiffany S. story? part of my dislike was around Big Jim so i'm intrigued that he's put into a better light by this.

    was there ever an explination given why Dennis doesn't speak other than 'he is dumb as fuck'?
     
  22. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    It would go like this, some parts I do not recall very well (spoilers go up until almost the end):

    -We learn Big Jim has drinking and eating issues, also relationship troubles(one of my favorite jokes was the one that went like "his relationships were like his whisky: they were on the rocks")

    -Tiffany S. from Tinder is namedropped somewhere near the beginning too, I think when narrating some of Big Jim vices, without much addendum.

    -As the story advances bits of Big Jim's relationship with her are revealed here and there(iirc S.T tells he pecked at her purse and she got angry once, this related to the current events as he was looking for some items at a woman's wardrobe), after some time Big Jim bought some expensive engagement rings he worked extra hours during months to pay for.

    -And then the big fight that ended the relationship: Tiffany S. wanted Big Jim to get rid of Dennis and S.T., Big Jim pleads "anything but choosing between them and you", he tells they are like his family(this last bit may have been ST's conclusion, I forgot the fine detail).

    -Some days after that Tiffany S. suffered a street attack and died (or was severely injured?) from it, the guilt of not being there was the last straw that destroys him, S.T. concludes he stopped having the will to live in that moment(what he and the animals called "the dark tide"), helping him cope with losing Big Jim.

    -Later his other friends "who had guns and were getting ready for a revolution" stopped seeing him because he was "too sentimental for a woman of the wrong color"

    Also somewhere in between we are told he did an intervention to a friend who was into heroin(that consisted in going to his apartment to beat the shit out of him) time before he died

    So even though he never takes the center stage the author manages to make him more likable by sprinkling parts of his story along the way.

    I don't think so, we are left to conclude he is mute and/or just prefers to listen
     
    #22 turmoil7, Oct 28, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
  23. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    Cell is a Stephen King book where cell phones turn all humans into zombies.

    A good illustration of what I mean is when ST fights the lead crow. He very quickly changes from being very staunchly a human to accepting himself as a crow. There's a few times where he quickly 180's opinions that I think could have used a little more time in the oven.

    And don't mean to criticize Dennis, I just mean the final part with Dennis. I get its to play up the instinct bit but... fell really flat for me. All to set up the strategies for fighting enemies that also were a but underwhelming. Just contending with the big predators had enough tension and interest, rapidly evolving zombie people didn't do much for me.

    I did like the naming conventions a lot, especially the nicknames
     
  24. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    I think I get that, S.T. setting to search for... was his name Kraa? immediately after being defeated made me raise an eyebrow, but I was craving for the plot to advance so I let it slide(I mentioned the descriptions fell verbose to me)

    Do you mean your issue was his death? It felt a little dumb but after he saved the day(btw where the hell did he find that iPad?) and was lauded as a hero all the deaths flags were set on my head so I expected it.

    Big predator action could had been used at the zoo section, since I deducted that the MoFo he was after were in fact an Orangutan it was kinda tedious. I did like the mutated humans, although I wouldn't mind them replaced by big predators neither.

    The nicknames game was on point I agree
     
  25. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    Not really. And the jury is out on really how dumb he is as well. But talking was kind of a weird thing for me overall. Besides Dennis, something that stood out to me was somewhere in the second half there's an earthworm "shouting" some doomsday prophecy type stuff before ST eats him. We don't see much interaction between predator and prey in a very communicative way which I think would have been interesting. We see a bit with the wolves but they are so brief and trivial in doesn't really come into play, and I think their voices are only really only shown in one of the random chapters. I also wonder what's going on with ST's talking. He says he can and supposedly he does, giving the dogs commands, but the animals can talk to each other. When he talks about going to the pet store and thing, he says other people are impressed he listens to Big Jim, not at his talking.

    Anyone know what was up with the prophecy pictures around the puppies and at the end?
     
  26. Zippedpinhead

    Zippedpinhead I'm a wee bit mad at Weemad

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    I really liked Tiffany S from Tinder and Big Jim’s story. It’s quite possibly the best flashback narrative I’ve read in a LOoooooNG time.

    so much so that I’m probably going to buy a copy for my brother who writes and show him a method for doing flashbacks that he might like (he despises flashbacks by finding them lazy and without risks, since you generally know who lives and dies)

    by removing the how of the deterioration of the relationship, and removing the “thinking” from one of the two leads of the flashback, it’s more truly a story within a story, as opposed to character motivation backup.

    im of a mind that Dennis is a “gentle giant” character. Sometimes they speak, but sometimes they don’t need to. By Dennis not speaking it maintains the dog relationship that I can relate with ST with.
     
  27. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

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    So I've been thinking about this idea that ST changes too quickly and while I can definitely see that - and think that sometimes it happens for convenience - for the most part, I feel like it's his... uh, inherent birdness. Feels to me that much of this journey is him accepting that he's a bird but he was actually always a bird, regardless of how he grew up, and I think Buxton does a lot of subtle (and plenty of overt) work embedding animalistic characteristics into these characters. Being jumpy and twitchy internally (changing mind, being flighty - lol, sorry) matches the external, which Buxton does a great job describing with all the moments of the birds hopping from foot to foot, bouncing a little, ruffling their feathers, etc.
     
  28. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    I agree with your thoughts on the early humor. One of the things I dislike about stories that make tons of pop culture references is how they use them as crutches when they can't come up with an identity of their own (looking at you Ready Player One), and that definitely was worrying me throughout the first third or so of the book with how frequent they were even though the book had a pretty strong premise. That plus the fact that I didn't understand all of them due to how specific they were. That said, there's definitely an evolution or a "curve" to the book in terms of how much presence that sort of humor has, and how much it relies on clever references, that mirrors ST's own grief and their clinging to the "ways of humans" that I'd say ends up feeling very well done in a sorta meta way. They annoyed me much less partly due to frequency and due to some specific references like the cheetos thing becoming stand-ins for elements in ST's old life that represented his memories and feelings if that makes sense.

    The humor has a presence in the book overall, though, for sure.
     
  29. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Wait, I don't think she died?!
     
  30. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    Well, of course, no one really dies off screen, she is the likely villainess for Hollow Kingdom 2

    I just checked, indeed she ends hospitalised last time we heard of her
     
  31. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

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    I couldn't get into the book at the beginning due to the humor either - that's why I went back to the other books I was reading. But when I finished those and tried again, I found it evaporated pretty quickly to my eye. It doesn't feel pervasive to me once you get into the story.
     
  32. Sawneeks

    Sawneeks Queen Doppelpopolis

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    That does actually improve how I see him.....

    It's a shame so much of this seems to be hidden until later on. The initial impression Big Jim leaves is really not a good one. I get he was there to show that humans, even shitty ones, are kind to animals and can create a family for them but there seems to be little else to having Jim be a 'there's a race war coming' 'Merican unless there is a ton of context I'm missing.

    Where do you feel like the plot takes off? Part of what killed my interest was S.T. changing his quest from discovering what was going on with humans and saving them to suddenly being on a quest to save all the other pets out there. The former was a lot more interesting than the latter for me. :x
     
  33. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

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    Oh, huh, I had the opposite sense. For me, having the hero discover his quest could not be achieved is interesting - he was given the new quest, but he had to accept it for himself, too, with the encounter with the dog pack in the homeless camp. I feel like that's something you don't always see in a hero's journey-style story. But I'm also really fascinated by life-after-humans stories because they give me some comfort from the agonizing pain of the clock ticking on life in the anthropocene.

    The plot was never an issue for me; I just had to ease into the humor and style.
     
  34. turmoil7

    turmoil7 more than six maelstroms

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    The original quest is what I like the least, I think.

    The book picked up after Cinnamon briefly joined and the new quest was accepted by S.T.
     
  35. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    Been a bit late getting back but I liked the idea. But I don't believe it. There's tons of voice problems in the book for me in general. Maybe that could have been the intention, god knows animal instincts and qualities are supposed to be a big enough part... but i don't actually feel they are a real part, certainly not real enough to justify those shifts to me. In general, the narration has some issues. The physicality has been commented on as a plus and I won't deny that, but intellectual stuff is all over the place. Some of the descriptions are using wild vocabulary that I would never expect from the character Stix portrayed as. Wish i had a physical copy to flip through and grab some examples but a lot of things don't add up to anything so we'll planned or crafted imo. While the voice for ST is strong enough, it's the only really strong voice for me. I'm more inclined to believe it's mainly just the author's voic , hence the vocab I wouldn't expect from ST or big Jim
     
  36. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    Big Jim is not supposed to be likable I hope. You get some good qualities out of him eventually but he's pretty much supposed to be a pos I think. But I think he's much more important in characterizing ST than as a character himself. For the most part, even the book doesn't really care about big Jim that much, only really slightly more than the other humans. Only ST does, and even there there are misgivings, like Jim being able to tell the difference between him and another crow.

    As far as the plot... I guess ymmv. I thought saving the other pets was much more interesting than solving the zombie apocalypse. I honestly wish the humans had just died outright, think we would've had a more interesting story
     
  37. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    I don't think I interpreted Big Jim's portrayal as being so negative as most people here. I may be forgetting things, but the only outright asshole thing I remember him doing was calling environmentalists shitty or something like that. The rest read as stuff I'd roll my eyes at in a "eh, we lead different lives" sort of way. He swore a lot and had bad habits but nothing made really made me think he was a "bad person" from the text itself. Also, the bit about him not recognizing S.T. from another crow didn't read to me as being some damning eye-opening reveal, it was presented as something humans were shitty at, not just Jim specifically.
     
  38. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    I mean he was friends with a bunch of white nationalists gun fanatics who ended up cutting ties because he was depressed about his break up with Tiffany s, who was some kind of minority. And that break up sparked because he wouldn't get rid of st and Dennis. So we see some good points there, mixed with still some real crappy stuff. Not the worst, but definitely rubbed shoulders with the worst, which still says something. But yeah, mostly Jim is kind of a pathetic character. And not recognizing ST isn't something that made him a bad person but it spoke to something--mostly his rampant alcoholism. He raised ST from a chick, I'm sure ST should have been easy to pick out from a native crow even if they looked identical, which is doubtful.