Cows (2015)

BOOK REVIEW: Cows (2015) by Matthew Stokoe

I burnt through the pages of Matthew Stokoe’s Cows in a fever fueled by my own disgust, half needing it to end and half wishing it never would. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel filthy just for reading and then demented once you realize you’re enjoying it.

There is nothing else out there like Cows. It’s the most extreme piece of literature I’ve ever read. When I was reading it, at times I needed to cover my eyes or look away, but unlike a movie, it doesn’t just keep playing and when I was inevitably forced to look back, the words were right where I left them, waiting to assault my eyes with more alphabet poison.

The short of it is, a young man named Steven lives in a small flat with his mother aptly called the Hagbeast. Poor Steven has endured nothing but hardship and abuse at the hands of the Hagbeast who has slowly been trying to kill him with bad food his whole life. Now a young man of 25 years, he’s gotten a job at the slaughterhouse and hopes to break free of the torture and squalor and imitate something that resembles a life he’s only ever seen on TV. Upstairs lives a young woman named Lucy, Steven hopes to incorporate her into his new Brady Bunch life. Unfortunately, Lucy is obsessed with the idea that she has a black spot in her body a “poison” that must be found and cut out. This obsession eventually comes to a head and is the final straw that thwarts Steven’s plans of any kind of happiness in the human world.

At the slaughterhouse, he meets a man called Cripps who teaches him the art of killing and how he can be free and strong once he has killed. He begins to believe Cripps and decides his only course of action is to kill his mother. Also, at the plant, he meets a talking cow simply called “the Guernsey” that needs Steven’s help. The Guernsey and other cows that managed to escape slaughter live in tunnels under the city and want to kill Cripps, to get revenge for all the wrongs he’s committed against cows. Revenge and hatred are a common theme throughout the story.

This book has all manner of vile atrocities that Stokoe just keeps hammering you with, but instead of using a hammer he uses a 2×4 and smashes you in the senses with it. Don’t read the book if you can’t handle shit, and I mean a lot of feces. They eat it, get covered in it, walk in it, and there is even a death by shitting down someone’s throat. If you can’t handle animal cruelty, or all types of cruelty for that matter skip this book. If you’re pro-life and can’t stomach a graphic home abortion, then give this one a pass. If however, you’re down with bestiality, rape of just about every kind, child abuse, and lots of bodily fluids, then definitely check out Cows.

Although I’ll never read this one again, I still highly recommend it to extreme cinema and literature lovers. It’s well written, but I honestly could have done without the talking cows and silly ending. It would have had far more impact without them. I still give it a 4/5 for originality and raw brutality.

Posted by Candace Stone

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