REVIEW: Zoo by Otsuichi

Zoo / Otsuichi

Zoo / Otsuichi

Holy shit.

I don’t often start off reviews with words like that but… holy shit.

I think it’s about time I write out my thoughts on this book. I was so affected by it, especially the final story in this collection. The other’s other book, Goth, was super high on my wish and TBR lists. Why I decided to read this first, I have no idea. I guess it looked shorter? I thought short stories would be an easier read? Nope.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah… holy shit. Eleven short stories are in this collection. Some of them are less than three pages long. It is translated from the original Japanes by Terry Gallagher and I would like to applaud his efforts. Nothing was lost in translation. It was as gut-wrenching and terrifying as if I were watching a Japanese movie (dubbed, of course). In fact, a few stories were made into a movie in 2005. I will definitely watch that!

As with a lot of Japanese thrillers, there’s always a twist in the end. Some better than others. Some predictable, some will terrify. And some, I found confusing. The title story, Zoo, is about a man who receives a picture of his dead girlfriend’s decomposing body in his mailbox everyday. This is what sold this book to me; I didn’t even bother reading the rest of the blurb. I kind of knew where the story was going but I still like how creepy it was. It was literally just one character. Imagine an episode of Criminal Minds in the point of view of the unsub. The second story was a bit confusing to me. In A Falling Airplane reads like a short play. Two passengers of a hijacked plane were making final deals with each other. It becomes this crazy conversation that includes the hijacker and honestly, I can’t tell you its message or purpose. I was left confused by this story. It was neither scary nor thrilling.

The White House in a Cold Forest is about a man who grew up abused. He then builds this house made of corpses. One day, a little girl comes by and she then replaces one of the corpses in the house. For whatever reason, this kid is not fazed by a house made of dead bodies but hey, that’s magical realism (I think) for you. I thought it was just some creepy and disgusting short story but the ending made me incredibly sad. Find the Blood! is, I guess you can say, the comic relief of this collection. I wish it was located somewhere near the end for I really needed some cheering up. This is about an old rich man who was slowly bleeding out in front of his good-for-nothing gold-digging relatives. It is a funny murder mystery that I found clever. The shortest story in the bunch is In A Park at Twilight, A Long Time Ago and believe me, this review has more words than that story.

The stories in the second half the book are rather dark and more violent than the previous ones. Wardrobe is a straight up murder mystery with the most unreliable narrator ever. I actually read it twice and I was still confused by the ending. Song of the Sunny Spot reminded me of those mobile visual novels where there’s only you and another character in the story. Here we have the last human on earth and a robot companion that he created to help bury him when he dies. It’s very Haruki Murakami-esque. One of my favorites is Kazari and Yoko. They’re twins where one is treasured and the other is abused. The neglect and cruelty is so over-the-top, it makes the ending the most satisfying. SO-Far is another one that screams Haruki Murakami to me. It’s about a young boy whose parents are stuck in parallel universes. He then has to choose which parent to accompany. Words of God talks about the power of voice and how we should be careful with what we wish for.

(Geez, it’s hard to talk about these short stories without giving anything away.)

Seven Rooms needs its own paragraph. This is my personal favorite and it spoke to my own personal terror. It is about a brother and sister who are abducted and imprisoned in a room with water running through it. The water must come from and go somewhere so upon investigation, they figure out that there are six other rooms with people in them. Day by day, the water runs murky and disembodied  waste run through. Room by room, an unknown person is killing off the prisoners. The brother and sister count the days until it’s their turn. This one played to one of my worst fears. I have a younger brother and for some reason, I felt so fragile the day I was reading this. Sure, it sounds like some Saw-like torture porn but it affected me so much that it deserves its own star.

This book is full of twisted minds, twisted people. It is definitely not for the feint of heart. I’m usually a tough cookie when it comes to horror thrillers but I was deeply affected, especially by that last story, that I couldn’t focus for days after. I needed some serious cheering up. Would I continue reading my Japanese fiction in between reads? Of course. But I might go through my manga first. This one really messed me up.

Rating: 5/5. Some stories, I’d be open to reread… and some, I wish I could forget.

Psst… read In A Park at Twilight, A Long Time Ago here.

 

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3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Zoo by Otsuichi

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