ZOO by Otsuichi
ZOO by Otsuichi is like a cute doll that seems ridiculously silly. Only that doll is a small bomb that targets your brain and sticks with you. While reading the book, I stopped several times and just felt shaken on a granular level. The masterful writing of Otsuichi is like a beautifully choreographed performance piece that ends in a horrific tableau of blood and misery.
Kind of like real life, I guess.
A Bad Summary
Throughout ZOO, readers are slammed with these stories that set your expectations of how something should go only for a blindsiding twist to completely set you off-kilter. Every story’s climax would come far later than expected, sometimes all the way in the last paragraph of the story as it closes out.
The results were jarring.
Without spoiling any of the stories, since they deserve to be explored and revealed on their own, several stories left my jaw literally hanging. One story left me feeling like an electrical wire was pressed to my skin, reacting to everything around me.
A Life Truth
That’s the power of words. Otsuichi, through Terry Gallagher’s translations, finely tunes the dials of emotion and manages to deliver powerful jolts that completely alter your experience.
ZOO was a book where I went in expecting to be scared and horrified, but I wasn’t. Most of the stories aren’t terribly horrifying in the sense of ghosts, monsters, and pop-up scares. It’s scary in the sense that the person you see on the side walk, passed out in their rags, actually had a really rough life. They were beaten as a child. Ignored. Hated. And they could never adapt.
That’s what ZOO is: a view into worlds you cannot comprehend and that is scarier than any horror movie.
ZOO was a humbling experience. I thought I was ready to handle any type of story that was thrown my way, but that’s where egotism comes in. Reading as much as I do, I can sort of figure out endings before they are fully formed. What that does is usually leave me satisfied but bored. With ZOO, I rarely figured out the endings, or if I did, it was right before the reveal came, and I am gut punched as I quickly read through everything.
What I loved about this is that there were common ideas throughout: love, loss, death, and life, and every single one of them was twisted into a new way of exposing this idea. I cannot say enough positive things about this god damn book. I loved it so much.
Final Score: 5 out of 5
ZOO is a powerful book that looks at death, life, love, mental illness, self-esteem, and where people fit in. This is the power of ZOO; a menagerie of humanity boiled into under 300 pages.
Read this book, but be prepared. It’ll change you.