Zoo by Otsuichi is a collection of Japanese short stories. Otsuichi is the pen name of Hirotaka Adachi, born 1978. He is a Japanese writer, mostly of horror short stories, as well as a filmmaker. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of Japan and the Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan.
There was a time when American horror was something more than slashers, vampires, and werewolves. Today, slashers control the movies and hipster vampires and werewolves control television. Stephen King keeps keeping on with his brand of horror, but it has been a while since he turned out something as great as his 1970s and 1980s books. Something turned my attention to Japanese horror with the release of The Ring and The Grudge. Otsuichi captures some of this freshness in horror. Granted I am a very casual horror reader but, I grew up reading The Omen, The Exorcist, and Gary Brandner’s The Howling. They introduced something that felt different. Otsuichi does the same.
That all being said one of my favorite stories in this collection is a slasher type story. It was just so different from what I expected. The range of stories is fairly wide which each story taking a bit of different angle in suspense or terror. Divorce can be a terrible thing for a child but having it develop into an actual horror story is a unique take. Two stories gave the feeling of a modern Frankenstein tale, but on a much different tangent. Sibling stories included in the collection also have a distinct tone to them. The story of the twins will leave the reader wondering how does a parent choose a favorite and how superficial is that decision.
The title story, “Zoo”, sets the tone for the entire collection — dark and at times very demented, but always different. I stopped reading horror when it became predictable, single tracked, or too “hipster-like” for my tastes. I don’t plan on reading horror on a regular basis but this book was definitely a treat and nice break in my normal reading genres and reminded me why I used to love horror.