Book Review: ZOO: Eight Tales of Animal Horror by Joe Scipione


Title: ZOO: Eight Tales of Animal Horror

Author: Joe Scipione

Release date: April 27, 2022

It’s funny, because I keep telling myself that I’m completely exhausted reading collections and anthologies, burned out by devouring so many over the last few years, yet, every time I start reading a few books, I need to get a collection started, so that I can bounce between longer reads and shorter reads. I don’t know what to say? Could be some sort of medical condition!

Which brings us to ‘ZOO: Eight Tales of Animal Horror.’ Hilariously, I started this feature called 3Q’s, where I get various authors to answer three questions (and a fun fourth). I started it with the hopes that folks who follow along with me, might discover some new-to-them authors or reads. Guess what? In the few weeks of me scheduling these features, I’ve bought about a dozen ebooks. Insert face palm emoji. That’s right. Spoiler alert – Joe will be a featured 3Q’s author coming up, but when I was putting his together, I read more about ‘ZOO…’ and well, here we are!

What I liked: The collection is exactly what the title says – eight stories of animal horror. But, the title is also a bit misleading, as this isn’t specifically set in a zoo, nor is it limited to what zoo animals might pop into your head. I have to say – I loved all of the stories and enjoyed the novella at the end.

Highlights for me were;

‘Well and Unbitten’ – this was an anxiety inducing story that I just happened to read while camping. The story revolved around the world being overrun and taken over by mosquitos and a families fight to survive. Nothing like reading this while trying not to itch mosquito bites.

‘Hunting with Pepper’ – this story was one of the most exhilarating and original pieces I’ve read in sometime. After a divorce, a man searches for a hobby. Deciding to enjoy nature and take up falconry, he goes hunting rabbits with his falcon, Pepper. Only problem is, this time, Pepper takes down something that isn’t a rabbit. Horrifyingly amazing.

‘Goal Hike’ – look, we all know I’m a sucker for a story set in the woods. This one follows a recovering alcoholic who decides that the way for them to stay away from alcohol is to go on a hike every week. And now, here they are, week 52, hike 52. They’ve waited to do this hike, the hardest hike, until the last one as a celebration. But on the way down, a menacing bear is waiting for them and then it becomes a tale of survival.

Throughout, Joe has a deft way of ramping up the tension and keeping you on the edge of your seat. Case in point – the story ‘Obsession’ starts off simply enough but then over the course of a few pages, you can feel the energy lift and flow, growing to a crescendo. It is really well done and engaging.

What I didn’t like: I wasn’t riveted by the final novella, even though the story had some high points. I think it was more the animal chosen, as for me, I’m not a huge fan of that animal in general. As with all collections, readers will find some stick with them more and others won’t, but I have to say, Joe does a great job of making it tough for you to not want to finish each story!

Why you should buy this: If you’re like me, short story collections can be a great job of breaking up the longer reads you may have on the go. At the moment, the two other books I’m reading are both right around 400 pages, so it’s great to read each of those for a bit then, break it up with a short one or two. Scipione’s collection starts out high and stays that way and I think fans looking for a collection that features non-typical antagonists will eat this one up!


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