Are You Ready To Go To The ZOO?

October 2, 2009 at 8:59 pm 3 comments

Obviously by now you have realized that we have mentioned the new Haikasoru title “Zoo” extensively, and yet again we bring you a new article, this time, a review!

This is my first review of a book for my blog, so hopefully you will all enjoy it.

The third title from the new Haikasoru Science Fiction Imprint by Viz, Otsuichi’s newest novel to be brought to English readers is “ZOO”. Sounds harmless, right?

Before discussing the book itself, let’s review who the man Otsuichi even is. You may have heard of him, or you may not have. Having published his first novel while still in High School living in Japan (Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse) and recieving critical praise for it, he went onwards to write many many more novels. Two besides this one have been translated into English. The first was “Calling You”, while the second was “GOTH”.

Having read Otsuichi’s two published short stories in the English edition of FAUST by Del Rey, I already was well aware that this author was excellent. I ordered a copy of “Calling You” and after a while, sat down one day to read it. I was floored when I finished it. It was an amazing book, a true work of art, a masterpiece. It was inspiring, filled with hope, and yet contained the realistic sadness the characters carried with them. I loved it.

I was however entirely shocked to realize that someone who wrote such great Science Fiction and such inspiring stories could be a bestselling ‘Horror’ writer. I was reluctant to delve right into “GOTH”, so I waited and got “ZOO” instead to give me a taste of his writing style. See, to understand, I have never read a Horror novel before. So I was a bit reluctant to start.

Let me start off by saying that Zoo was deffinitely a unique read. There are very few books like it, I believe, of course, I don’t read Horror, so maybe I’m incorrect, however, I have a feeling that this book is still unique even to the Horror genre. However, it was not a perfect read, it had its faults, however, its positives I believe outweighed the negatives. Below, I will give my review for each of the chapters, and then give my overall detailed review of the book as a whole. No worries, I won’t give away any major spoilers.

1. ZOO

The first short story in this 11 story collection was of course expected by me to be an amazing start to a hopefully amazing novel. Afterall, the entire book was named after this story. It follows a man who kills his girlfriend after going to the Zoo, and then takes photo’s of her decomposing corpse. But he makes himself forget that he did it, or rather, he refuses to accept it. Ok, so, any reader of Otsuichi know’s that all of his great short stories have really good ‘twists’ at the end that help to wrap up the story. Up until this book, I hadn’t read a story of his that didn’t. So what’s the twist? Oh wait…I’ve already told you above. I know, your confused. You see, for some unknown and unexplainable reason, Otsuichi decides to reveal the twist in the very beginning. So through most of the story, you KNOW the main character is the killer. So what’s the ending? I won’t tell, that’s obviously a spoiler, however, to me, it was a very un-enjoyable ending. I already knew what the ending would be LONG BEFORE it actually happened. It was quite a dissapointment for me to read Otsuichi writing something that was so DIFFERENT and completely not as good as his other short stories. In my opinion, he really didn’t think hard enough about this story when he wrote it.

2. In A Falling Airplane

Ok, so while the first story was a big dissapointment to me, the second was a wonderful, brilliant, amazing surprise! I really mean it. The second story involves a woman who boards an airplane and ends up sitting next to another passenger, a male salesman. But as they are in the air, a highschool student who had been rejected entrance to Tokyo University hijacks the aircraft, holding everyone hostage. He announces he plans to ram the plane into the University. It is now that people panic, and the woman is offered to buy something from her male passenger. You see, it just so happens he has a bit of a Euthenasia Drug with him, however, she has to act quickly. It’s an hour until they crash, and the durg takes a half hour to take effect. With thirty minutes on the clock she must decide what to do, and what is the truth. This story, let me start of by saying, is utterly brilliant! I loved every moment of it. From page 1 until the end, I was completely sucked into the story. And the ending? Just like all of Otsuichi’s mastperieces, it had a satifying and enjoyable twist and ending. This is probably the BEST story in the entire book. A MUST READ.

3. The White House In The Cold Forest

This was the second horror genre story in the book. While some reviewers said they found the character distant. I felt in the beginning of the story he was more relatable, but as he went his own way, he became distant. But this was not in my eye’s any problem such as it was for others. I was actually pretty interested in the story. Obviously, Otsuichi’s writing is good in almost every story, no matter if its good or not. So whether his stories are well written is almost always never a question that needs to be asked. However, as the story sets itself up for the final TWIST ending, as he is normally famous for, I sighed miserably. It sucked. There was at least a twist this time, unlike Zoo which gave it away, however, the twist in my opinion just wasn’t really “twist-worthy”. I just didn’t enjoy it, and so it made the whole story a waste of my time.

4. Find the Blood!

This short story about a man who can’t feel anything, but wakes up in the morning while out on vacation with his family, stabbed. He’s bleeding, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop it or get him to the a hospital since they are in the mountains. So he comes to the conclusion that someone in his family did him in, and he decides he needs to figure it out. So as he bleeds to death, he tries to figure it out. Problem is, none of his family mind his death, so any one of them could have done it. It’s supposed to be a dark comedy I guess, however, it simply lacked the magic Otsuichi’s stories normally have. It’s ok, it just….not anything worthwhile.

5. In A Park At Twilight, A Long Time Ago

A 2 and half page short story. A very quick read, but a good one. Has a nice small twist of an ending.

6. Wardrobe

The sixth short story, and deffinitely the second best. Some have called it a “who done it” kind of story, but I believe that couldn’t be further from the truth. I can’t really tell you any details about it, because it’s really complicated. However, essentially, on the last small paragraph, Otsuichi mind rapes you. No, I mean, I’m serious. You’re left gawking at the page, wondering if the author is half-mad, or you are. You re-read it several times, re-read the page again, and then finally start to re-read the beginning of the story. It is at this time you realize the truth, and laugh or scream your head off in fury. Why? Because Otsuichi, that cunning man he is, is laughing at you. You’ve been duked! I can’t explain any more, or else it will spoil it. But anyways, deffinitely a wonderful story that will not leave your mind after reading it and truly show’s how a simple story can still be turned into an unforgettable tale of cunning writing.

7. Song of the Sunny Spot

This is another science fiction story, like Otsuichi is famous for. It’s about a robot built by the last human on earth after a virus has killed everyone. He informs the android human looking girl that he is infected and will soon die. Her job? To bury him next to his uncle. The story is mostly philosophical and looks at the “Meaning of Life”. It has a nice small twist at the end that helps make the story even more enjoyable. Deffinitely a nice read.

8. Kazari and Yoko

The story is about two twin girls, and how their mother loves one, but hate’s another. And when I say ‘hate’, I mean ‘hate’ as the dictionary defines. In fact, it opens the story up with Yoko wondering how she will be killed by her mother, should her mother finally decide to do it. Wow…how to explain this story…. Creepy? Scary? Frightening? Not sure. What I can say is, you’ll have a very hard time trying to stop reading it. It’s another horror themed short story, and as you have read already, all the previous ‘horror’ stories all came out sub-par or below. But not with this one. This was finally a great read. It was engaging, frightening, and hooked the reader till the very end. And it did not dissapoint. While some may read it and consider an alternate ending that would have had more of a horror genre effect perhaps, the ending Otsuichi delivers is just as good. A scary good read. Although, perhaps ‘thriller’ best describes the book considering the ending Otsuichi gave it. Hmm…I guess you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

9. SO-far

Another wonderful gem by Otsuichi. This short story is about a young boy who one day realizes his parents can no longer see each other. Each of the parents believes that the other is dead. But he can see both of them. So what’s the truth? Are they both dead? Or is only one dead? Or are neither dead? Does an “alternate reality” have anything to do with it? The mystery abounds and so does the intrigue as the young boy quickly becomes the speaker box for both of his parents to talk to each other. However, when their conversation goes sour, and the boy is forced to speak unpleasent things to both his parents, will the grief and sorrow brought about be their son’s demise? This story is just wonderful. I loved it. It has a BEAUTIFUL twist ending that truly makes one relflect long and hard on the story. ANY new parents with young children who are fighting in the home, MUST and SHOULD BE REQUIRED to read this story. It just might make them think twice about what they are doing, and how it will effect their children’s futures. VERY good story.

10. Words of God

This short story follows a young boy who believes he is a wretched soul, is ugly on the inside, and is always trying to please others so as to not be looked down on. Did I mention he can speak commands and any living thing must obey him? Oh, no? Yea, it’s kind of important I guess. Anyways, I read, and I read, and I hoped that after this many ‘good’ stories finally, the trend would keep going. Sadly, I was to be dissapointed. This story like the first few, lacked a good ending. I was not pleased with it, and it once again didn’t feel like Otsuichi. It’s supposed to have a twist at the end, but…honestly, I was left feeling “Who cares?”

11. Seven Rooms

The final chapter and short story, and the scariest of them all. It gives a true taste of Otsuichi’s idea of Horror. It’s a very frightening read, and it’s written well enough (as expected) that you can’t stop reading. A brother and sister awaken in a single locked (with no windows) cell. They quickly try to discover the secret behind their capitivity, but as they do, their fate’s grow grimmer. While it has amazing spell binding writing, and the story captivates you increddibly. The ending was too sad. I know, corny right? Keep in mind, this is my first time reading ANYTHING horror. As such, I was hoping for a happier ending. And while in a certain sense it is, it isn’t. I just felt, depressed at the end of it all. And while I realize some may enjoy that type of story, for me, it just left me feeling bad. Of course, after a while and getting my mind off it, I was able to not feel so bad. I had become so attatched to both characters that their fates felt too real for me to be comfortable with. haha. Of course, that just goes to show you how well written it was. So while this story could be a great read for some people, for other’s it might prove not to be so great.

So what do I think of the book as overall? A great read. While it may contain many faults, it does indeed have many worthwhile gems. It’s deffinitely a book worth buying and reading. In my opinion, you could skip reading the chapter’s I mentioned as bad. It would make your perception of the book entirely better probably. Of course, everyone’s opinion is different, so who know’s, you just might have an opposite opinion as to mine. To me. ff the questionable chapters had not been included, I would have called this book “amazing”. But unfortunately they were, so I must simply call it “very good”.

I will say most of all that this was a very enjoyable read, and had many amazing stories by Otsuichi. I am glad to know that Viz will be releasing more of Otsuichi’s novels in the hopefully near future. I certainly will be eagerly buying them as they are released.

So to the people at Haikasoru, “Job Well Done!”

My one complaint: No Afterward by Otsuichi. I would have really enjoyed hearing his thoughts. Oh well.

Hope you all found the review helpful. Feel free to leave any comments below.

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Entry filed under: Reviews.

Welcome to the N.H.K Light Novel Review Review: Train Man: The Novel

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. newgeekphilosopher  |  October 3, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Hmm. No afterword, but I would genuinely consider buying this because of my love of transgressive fiction. Transgressive fiction is different to horror but similar because it deals with the mundane horrors of humanity more than supernatural horrors, but it can deal with that stuff as well.

    Will buy this after I get Faust Vol. 1 and 2!

    Reply
  • 2. Sharillon  |  October 3, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Just a question. Arent the short-stories somehow “too” short? I looked at how many pages the whole book had. And for 11 stories on so few pages I thought:

    “Maybe the stories are a bit too short…”

    Can u say anything about it?

    Reply
    • 3. ranobecafe  |  October 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm

      Not really. Each story never feels “too short”. The bad ones feel too long. lol Otsuichi does a good job of giving just the right number of pages for each story, at least, the good ones that I liked anyways. It’s similar to “Kino no Tabi” which has many short stories about Kino’s travels. Those were short as well, but they never felt it. They were perfectly balanced.

      Reply

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Welcome To Ranobe Cafe!

This marks the english speaking world's first dedicated light novel blog, bringing you news and views from the english perspective on light novels. We are more than just a blog about light novels though, we also stand in awe of the many other literary works crossing over to the West from Japan. So expect to also see articles that dabble from time to time in Cell Phone Novels and Japanese Sci-Fi works, to mention a few.

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