Zoo City
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Zoo City

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3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  4,723 ratings  ·  877 reviews
Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons.

Being hired by reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the feste...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 29th 2010 by Angry Robot (first published January 1st 2010)
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Tatiana
Jan 30, 2012 Tatiana rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tatiana by: Guardian
As seen on The Readventurer

Just when I think there is no urban fantasy in existence which breaks away from the formulaic and same-old-same-old, I come across this gem, thanks to Guardian book podcast. Hurray!

As with most of inventive and unorthodox genre deviations, describing Zoo City is a pain. I'm tempted to just call it a Paolo Bacigalupi/The Golden Compass mix and leave it at that, but I'm afraid I'll scare the readers away.

So, Zoo city. What is it? It's a sort of ghetto area in modern day...more
Joel
One of the things I loved the most about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series was his rather brilliant twist on the concept of a witch's familiar: that in that world, each person's soul manifests as a companion animal that is their other half. It's not only because it's a cool idea; it also is an interesting reflection of our ongoing weird relationship with nature -- the connection we feel to the creatures of the earth, though most of us live far removed from it in cities and suburbs. And,...more
Melissa Proffitt
I hate it when I read a book that's beautifully written, but has a clumsy plot. I was seduced by the writing while I was reading it, and it wasn't until after I finished that I started realizing how many problems I had with it. In this alternate history/SF world, people's guilt over their mistakes or crimes manifests as animals that are emotionally or psychically attached to them, sort of like having an albatross hung around your neck, except living and not so corpsey. This was interesting to me...more
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]
Wow.

Zoo City is one of the more original, complicated fantasy books that I’ve read this year. I’m not even sure how to tag it, that’s how many elements come into play. Urban fantasy? Johannesburg is a major city, after all, and the animal angle is clearly unreal. Dystopia? Almost, but not quite; despite the animals, this is a current version of Johannesburg and African politics. Mystery noir? After all, there’s a missing person and an investigator of questionable character. Horror? A little witc...more
Michael
Lots of innovation in this melding of noir detective, cyberpunk, and urban fantasy genres. She doesn’t go overboard with any one of this triad. It was a fun ride mixed with a lot of disturbing elements. Having a likeable female hero helped me accommodate the widespread despair in the contemporary Johannesburg setting. But I am led to render a 3.5 star rating because of personal displeasure with the shocking and implausible dénouement to the tale. But then maybe horror is the 4th genre in the ble...more
Penny
I loved it! :)

I was over the moon when Zoo City was chosen to be one of the SciFi and Fantasy Book Club reads for November! A book set in a version of my home city with an interesting premise and great reviews! Yes please!

In my excitement I emailed Lauren Beukes and asked if she'd do a Q&A with our group and she said yes! As you can imagine I was bouncing off walls! It occurred to me mid-bounce that this would be an awesome opportunity for Sod (you may know him as Murphy) to rear his ugly h...more
ambyr
Before I read this, I would have said there was nothing new you could do with the magical companion animals trope. I would have been wrong.

I enjoyed this--for the concept, for the characters, for the setting. I was all set to give it four stars. And then the ending happened.

(view spoiler)...more
David
This is not your average urban fantasy. It's set in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a world where murderers and other criminals acquire magical animals that are mystically bonded to them. "Zoos" are discriminated against, but with their animal also comes a magical talent, unique to each Zoo.

Zinzi December is an addict whose drug habit got her brother killed, and thus burdened her with her Sloth companion and a magical talent for finding lost things. She's a very flawed protagonist, but very belie...more
Kirstine

I don’t normally read urban fantasy (or urban science fiction, not entirely sure what genre this is), not because the books of that genre have let me down, but because I don’t particularly like urban settings. They make me sad, and for some reason all urban books are always pointing out the miserable conditions of our existence.

As I owned this book, I thought I might as well read it. People have been giving it good reviews and the premise is pretty interesting. As someone who’s head over heels...more
Ben Babcock
Identity is a very fragile and ephemeral concept, and the philosophy surrounding identity fascinates me. If, in the immortal words of Ke$ha, “we R who we R”, then who we are differs depending upon whether we are alone or with people, with friends or with enemies (or, if you are Ke$ha, with frenemies). We perform identity, wearing it like a costume. But it’s not something we entirely control. Identity is not so much a costume as it is a negotation between two entities, for part of my identity is...more
S.
This story is packed with good ideas, but is over all too soon.

I slightly resented the ending for being more of a gore-ridden squelch fest, it overbalanced the magic/crime combination too much.
The story wrapped up too swiftly as a whole as well: Suddenly, after seriously heavy trouble, Zinzi's in her car, about to do what she's about to do...Can't give that away, now, can I?

However, what a wonderfully gritty homage to Philip Pullman's concept of daemons.
The nod to His Dark Materials is cleverly...more
Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]
While I'm not usually a big fan of urban fantasy, I really enjoy the writing style of Lauren Beukes, and loved her other novel Moxyland. Her female characters are strong, flawed and cynical, but above all realistic and relatable. On top of that, the protagonist in this one has a sloth. Yep. A sloth.

Zoo City has one hell of an original premise - that people who commit a grave crime such as murder, find themselves bonded to a magical animal familiar, and should that animal die, a dark force called...more
Cathy
4.5 stars. This book drew me in from the very first page. Zinzi has such a clear voice, and every detail of the scene was so detailed and vivid, while still being effortless to read, that it made me feel like I disappeared into the story. Some books are just a bit smarter, with ideas that are more creative and clever, than others. When you add a great deal of interesting real-world issues to give the story a lot of depth, it makes a book very special. From the unique magical elements of the anim...more
Josh
I like ZOO CITY more for the concept than actual story that is until the darker side of key players comes to light. Beukes creates a world teaming with real world comparisons separated by unique twists of the fantastical. The plot, once established, is pretty straight forward and conforms to the typical PI case format comprising a series of interviews, background digging, violent encounters etc as the protagonist, Zinzi December, and her sloth source the target.

Having previously used her talent...more
Wealhtheow
May 30, 2013 Wealhtheow rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of urban magic, esp with a noir feel
Zinzi December grew up rich and privileged, but her drug addiction led to the death of her brother and jail time. Now she lives in Zoo City, the ghetto for the animalled--people who are guilty of something so bad that an inexplicable force gave them an animal, which they are connected to for life. They cannot be separated from their animal without great pain. Animals are a source of shame and social stigma, and with a sloth in tow, Zinzi is forced out of journalism and into working odd jobs. Wit...more
Ranting Dragon
http://www.rantingdragon.com/zoo-city...


Zoo City is a standalone novel set in a fictional Johannesburg, South Africa. In Zoo City, if you commit a felonious sin, the Undertow comes for you and marks you with first an animal companion that serves as a manifestation of your sin, and second a supernatural talent. Both the animal and the talent are called “mashavi.” The sinners are called “aposymbiots,” and are relegated to living in a slum known as Zoo City.

Zinzi December is an aposymbiot: her anim...more
Kelly
Would probably be more enjoyable to you if you like urban fantasy (I generally don't). Kind of an anti-steampunk Perdido Street Station. (As an aside: I feel like I compare a LOT of books to Perdido Street Station, which is weird, because I barely made it through that book and didn't like it that much, but it is sort of the hallmark of a genre, so.) On the one hand, I admire the decision to commit to the device and just roll with it and tell a story where the device is integral but not a story a...more
Aubrey
3.5/5
Well. I won't deny the fact that I didn't expect to love it. It may be that the recent trend of reading classics has left me suspicious of anything modern. Unfair, I know. But my reasons for this particular rating are sound enough for me. The writing was pretty typical: caustic wit, descriptive passages, hints at the unknown until they are dragged into the light. You know. (view spoiler)...more
Lauren
Oh, Zinzi. I wanted to like you, I really did.

The book picked me up and carried me along until three-quarters of the way through, when it promptly dropped me and went off to lose its way.

I found myself discombobulated at the start of chapters, because everything was in medias res and Zinzi had to backtrack to cover where she was and what was happening. It felt like an overly awkward way to tell the whole story - fine for chapters in which it was necessary, but that certainly wasn't the case ever...more
Evgeny
I usually start my book reviews with a brief outline of the plot. In this case it is very difficult to do as the moment I start talking about it I will give huge spoilers. If I try to avoid them all, the plot will sound too generic - and it is anything but. So I apologize in advance for some spoilers: they are very minor, I promise.

Zinzi December lives in the near future version of South Africa. She has a talent for finding lost things, just things not persons. She also has a part-time job as a...more
Frida Fantastic (book blogger)
(Cross-posted from Adarna SF)

Zoo City is an urban fantasy set in South Africa. Just when you thought that everything’s been done with animal familiars, Beukes adds an interesting social dimension to it. After a rapture-like event, people who have committed major crimes (dubbed as zoos) began to appear with animal familiars.

[The truth is we’re all criminals. Murderers, rapists, junkies. Scum of the earth. In China they execute zoos on principle. Because nothing says guilty like a spirit critter a...more
Justin
http://staffersmusings.blogspot.com/2...

Lauren Beukes is the Queen of Metaphors. I capitalized and underlined it so it must be true. I'll go into why this is an awesome novel in a second, but first let me treat everyone to one of Beukes' metaphors:

"I haven't drive in three years and the car handles like a shopping trolley on Rohypnol."

I don't highlight much when I read, if at all, but I found myself marking sentence after sentence reading Zoo City. Beukes writes with a rare vividness that would...more
Fangs for the Fantasy
Zinzi December is a animalled – aposymbiotic. She has done something bad in the past – she has killed someone – and since the mid 90s that has caused people to manifest their own animals. The animalled all gain a special power upon having their animal, but it doesn't compare to the widespread prejudice and hatred society shows them – nor to the constant threat of the Undertow. A darkness that chases and hunts down animalled when their companions are killed and stalks them until then.

Zinzi has th...more
Colin Taylor
Zoo City is set in South Africa in the present day, with Zinzi December our guide through this unsettlingly familiar world, quite literally. Lauren Beukes has created a vivid, sun-bleached Johannesburg inhabited by hustlers, addicts, prostitutes, criminal, street dwellers, pop bands, music moguls and animals, the latter belonging to those who've been affected by a otherworldly force called the Undertow. This force seems to exact a kind of moral sentencing of those who've done wrong, sending an a...more
Simon
Two things about modern science fiction struck me while reading this.
Firstly, the tendency to under-explain. Before, the narrator would stop the story in order to give you an info-dump on the world, a key piece of technology, or something else you needed to know in order to understand the story. Nowadays there will be a couple of hints dropped in passing into a dialogue exchange, and it's up to you to join the dots and figure out what it means. On the one hand this makes for a smoother reading e...more
Christal
Do you know the best thing about this book? It is ACTUAL urban fantasy. it's not paranormal or supernatural harlequinn romance masquerading under the banner so they can sell more books to unknowing fantasy fans, it truly is the genre it claims to be.

Now, having said that, the book was mediocre. The ideas were great, big time, and the setting in Africa and the African female protagonist were somewhat believable, however Beukes did not strike me as a great storyteller at all. Which for me is much...more
Justin
The main character of Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City is a former freelance journalist named Zinzi December. Zinzi is cool, intelligent and carries some big mental baggage. Despite her flaws, you will love her almost immediately. Zinzi lives in Zoo City, which is essentially a slum in Johannesburg for people who have been burdened with animals. In the world of Zoo City, people are magically attached to animals after they’ve done something particularly awful. People with animals are the outcasts of soci...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
In my review of Lauren Beukes's earlier book, Moxyland, I pointed out that so much is going on that even the characters don't know where they are. In Zoo City, I feel like Beukes has gone a little too far in the opposite direction - the setting is interesting (a simultaneous alternate South Africa where perps get 'animalled' and end up with special skills) but the plot is weak (something about a pop star and a hidden wife, but then it doesn't seem very important).

I'm not sure I think she has as...more
Rashida
I don't know y'all. I feel a little shaken. Things got real. Real fast. The beginning, the blurb, it's a light little caper. Um, no. I guess looking back at it, there was darkness bubbling beneath the surface from the start. These are pretty heavy themes we're dealing with: racism, classism, urban decay. It's a good book, a fully realized world and fully realized, far from perfect protagonist. I wish that going into it I had more of an understanding of the place and culture, though Buekes does a...more
Megan
Zinzi December finds lost things. It's a tough way to scrabble up a living, though compared to her other job writing 419 scams, at least there's some dignity to it. In her Former Life, she was on her way to a bright journalism career, but due to drugs and a never-fully-explained murder, Zinzi and her sloth familiar (in this universe, these Animals appear and stick to a person after said person is responsible for someone else's death) are living in the Zoo City slum of Johannesburg, trying to pay...more
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Lauren Beukes is a novelist, scriptwriter, comics writer, TV writer and occasional documentary maker and former journalist.

She won the Arthur C Clarke Award and the Kitschies Red Tentacle for her phantamagorical noir, Zoo City, set in a re-imagined Johannesburg.

Her previous novel, Moxyland is political thriller about a consumertopia corporate apartheid state where cell phones are used for social...more
More about Lauren Beukes...
The Shining Girls Moxyland Fairest, Vol. 2: The Hidden Kingdom Broken Monsters Maverick: Extraordinary Women from South Africa's Past

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“Fashion is only different skins for different flavours of you.” 14 likes
“So are you an inmate or a rubbernecker?" she asks.

"Rubbernecker," I answer without hesitation. "You?"

"I'm a screw. Or on staff, anyway. Used to be an inmate. Repeat offender. Crimes against my body. Puking sickness followed by heroin, which led to more puking sickness." I'd be surprised at her forthrightness, but that's addicts for you. The twelve steps crack 'em open and then they can't shut up.”
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