Lauren Beukes’ [b: The Shining Girls|16131077|The Shining Girls|Lauren Beukes|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1352227705s/16131077.jpg|21956898] fascinated me with her style and imagination, I thought it was a flawed gem but it put me on board for more Beukeses. The next logical book for me from the Beukes bibliography is 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Zoo City
Set in an alternate reality where some people are suddenly paired with an animal as a consequence of something heinous they have done (or perhaps think they have done). Basically if you are bearing some major guilt chances are an animal will suddenly shows up next to you and you won’t be able to stray far from it. If this brings to mind “familiars” concept from Philip Pullman's [b: The Golden Compass|119322|The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)|Philip Pullman|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1333617993s/119322.jpg|1536771] / His Dark Materials
trilogy the author is well aware of it and even mentions the classic YA book in one of the chapters. The concept works very differently in the world of Zoo City
however, the people are not born with animals, not everybody have them, and the “animaled” people are bless with some kind of minor supernatural talent. Beukes gives the condition are clever medical sounding name: “AAF or Acquired Aposymbiotic Familiarism”. She also keeps the purpose of the animals quite ambiguous:“But was the Penguin his Jiminy Cricket or the devil on his shoulder?”
In a recent Reddit AMA
(a kind of live chat online interview) Beukes describes Zoo City
as “Black magic noir about a girl with a sloth on her back and the magical ability to find lost things.”
a nice and succinct description that saves me writing much of a synopsis. The “girl” in the description is the protagonist Zinzi December (a lovely name), a complex anti-heroine of sorts. Zinzi and her adorable stoat live in a shabby apartment where she ekes out a living as a finder of lost articles and a writer of scam e-mails. One day she is offered a large sum of money to find a missing pop singer, a job that turns out to be very difficult and dangerous.Zoo City
is an excellent urban fantasy, a subgenre I rarely read as too many of those are YA vampire romances. It is also a murder mystery thriller, and an allegory for the racism and violence still prevailing in Johannesburg. The storyline is a little convoluted but not too hard to follow, there are some hair raising scenes of mortal danger and quite graphic violence. The ending is a little grim and the major characters’ storylines are not neatly wrapped up. A sequel does not appear to be in the works but it would be very welcomed.
I would like to end this review with this quote (hi Cecily
!):“A collection of movie monsters are posed all along the top of the bookshelf. On instinct, I pick up the one that looks like an upside-down dustbin with rows of studs down the side. As I do, it says "Exterminate!" and I nearly drop it.”
You can always tell how great an author is by the number of Whovian references they make.