Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Short Review: 'ZOO: Stories' by Otsuichi, trans. by Terry Gallagher

Short stories are some of my favourite things. Not only are short stories incredibly difficult to write but, when you get them right, they are absolutely amazing. They also allow an author to really stretch their imagination, covering different topics and maybe even experiment with different writing styles. So when I saw ZOO I knew I wanted to give it a try! Thanks to Shueisha and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 10/06/2016
Publisher: Shueisha

Made into a feature film under the same title in Japan, a chilling YA collection of bestselling author, Otsuichi is now available in e-book format at last. Bonus pages include the author's interview.
man watches his girlfriend decompose, one Polaroid at a time. A salesman offers a euthanasia drug at an exorbitant price to a man on a hijacked airplane. An abused boy builds a house in the woods out of dead bodies. These are some of the stories in Otsuichi's ZOO. Creepy, funny, strange, and sad, these stories will fire up your imagination. Let one of Japan’s brightest young authors into your mind. Welcome to the ZOO.
Part of the reason I started A Universe in Words was because I wanted to push myself to read more literature from different countries and cultures. Perhaps short stories are one of the best ways to get to know the literature of a different country because you get so many different takes of an author's style. ZOO contains a range of stories written over four years, between 1998 to 2002, which range across different topics but retain a dark sense of humour. The stories in ZOO should all be classed as horror, technically, with dark twists, morbid realizations, and absurd overtones. Some of the situations created by Otsuichi in this collection are hilarious and yet they are intensely uncanny and creepy at the same time.  The original ideas behind almost every story is fascinating and often the core plot will stay with you way after you've finished the story, but at times the writing style doesn't entirely do justice to the stories itself.

Otsuichi has a very stripped back writing style, which doesn't rely on overt dramatization to get the tension in a situation across. Horrid things are coldly spelled out and partially this is what makes the stories so fascinating. However, this means that sometimes it also feels as if the stories are rushed or written too simply. The stories unfold, with one twist after another, and then simply end. This sounds like exactly what a short story must do, but being used to horror stories which focus more on the interiority of its characters, Otsuichi is both refreshing and also strange. It might take some getting used to but in the end ZOO is very rewarding collection of horror stories from a truly different voice. Among my favourite stories are probably 'The White House in the Cold Forest' which gave me the shivers and 'Seven Rooms', which was amazing.

I give this collection...

3 Universes!

I am really happy to have read ZOO, every story had something unique and interesting to offer the reader. Otsuichi has a fascinating imagination and I basically want to see full length film adaptations of each of these short stories. I'd recommend this to fans of Horror fiction and Absurd fiction.

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