Cows by Matthew Stokoe #BookReview

CriminOlly thinks: Not disturbing, just foul 2/5


Cows is perhaps the least disturbing “disturbing book” I’ve read. It’s reputation for being off the charts in its extremity precedes it but is, in my opinion anyway, undeserved. It’s certainly disgusting and on a couple of occasions horrifying, but it’s also far too ridiculous to be disturbing.

The book follows a young man, Steven, who lives with his abusive mother and crippled dog. Steven’s existence is pretty grim, but things start to look up when he starts working at a local slaughterhouse. There he gets to know his deranged co-workers, as well as some of the livestock.

I’ve seen the book compared to Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory and there are some similarities. The awkward young protagonist, the bizarre goings on, the abusive parent figure. But where The Wasp Factory was a masterpiece of macabre and grotesque invention, Cows feels like the kind of thing a schoolboy would scribble in the margins of his exercise book in an attempt to shock his peers. There are two scenes that have some kind of impact. One involves the literal eating of shit, and came close to making me puke. The other is a horrifying act of self-mutilation. Apart from that, Cows really didn’t impress me in any way.

The writing is poor and the plot is so ludicrous that it’s hard to read. There’s a nasty edge of misogyny to it all as well, and the terrifying sense that the author feels there is some kind of deeper message to the book. If there is, it’s buried behind so many layers of crap that it’s completely invisible.

Ultimately, Cows is a book that completely falls apart under the weight of its own pretension and its desperate need to be shocking. It’s not enjoyable to read. It’s not interesting and it’s certainly not disturbing.

Video Review

Book Details

Title: Cows | Author: Matthew Stokoe | Publisher: Self-published | Pages: 215 | Publication date: 31st October 2015 | ISBN: 9780987453662 | Source: Purchased


One of the most outrageous, original and insightful books ever written on the subject of alienation and societal decay, Cows is a violent, blood soaked nightmare – a scatological tale of love, self-empowerment and probably the most extreme novel you’ll ever read. Hailed around the world as a cult classic, Matthew Stokoe’s novel set the bar for gritty urban horror.

Mother’s corpse in pieces, dead dog on the roof, girlfriend in a coma, baby nailed to the wall, and a hundred tons of homicidal beef stampeding through the subway system. And Steven thought the slaughterhouse was bad . . .


Content Warnings: self harm, bestiality, animal cruelty, incest, child abuse

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