Otsuichi (乙一) writes his name with the characters for strange and one, and “strange” is certainly a good adjective for the stories in Zoo. These pieces fall somewhere between Rod Serling at his gotcha! best and the daymare world of OMNI-era Orson Scott Card as shown in “Breathing Lessons”, or “Had I Died A Thousand Deaths”. At their best, the stories in Zoo hit either one of those marks, but the misfires — and, yes, there are a few of them here — simply land with a hollow clink.
This is not the first of Otsuichi’s material to be translated into English, but it may well be the highest-profile release of his to date. It’s been published under the Haikasoru imprint, a VIZ sublabel specializing in popular literary works in translation from Japan — the same folks who gave us the excellent All You Need Is Kill a while back. Zoo isn’t quite in the same caliber as that novel, if only because it’s a collection and like all collections the pieces can vary wildly. The good pieces in Zoo, however, are more than worth saving. Read more