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Zoo City

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,196 Ratings  ·  1,125 Reviews
Zinzi has a talent for finding lost things.

To save herself, she’s got to find the hardest thing of all: the truth.

An astonishing second novel from the author of the highly-acclaimed Moxyland.
ebook, 296 pages
Published September 2nd 2010 by Angry Robot (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 30, 2012 Tatiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 McShane
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

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
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
Jul 08, 2015 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

(sheesh, here we go again with Goodreads sucking up my reviews....twice...)

Gonna keep this short: I was very impressed with my first encounter with Lauren Beukes' imaginative stylings (not unlike those of China Miéville). Zoo City, impossible to pigeon-hole (is it science fiction? dystopia? thriller? social commentary? good old fashioned magical murder mystery? kinda "yes" to all) is a bizarre, alternate universe'd, present day reimagining of Johannesburg, South Africa, one where crim
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
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)
Apr 10, 2015 Apatt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls 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 s
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
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
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
Jul 24, 2015 Books rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always struggle with the first sentence of my reviews, so I’m just going to dive right in and tell you all about this stunningly magnificent book that surprised the hell out of me.

Zoo City is really hard to describe. Why? Because I’m afraid I might not be able to adequately explain why this is a once-in-a-lifetime-MUST-read. If you’re not from South Africa, the setting and colloquial narrative might – at first - feel a little strange and disconcerting. Yet, well into the story, you’ll soon eno

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
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
Jul 17, 2011 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
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
Ranting Dragon
Feb 12, 2011 Ranting Dragon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: benni

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
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)
Nov 05, 2012 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, kindle, read_2012
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
May 30, 2013 Wealhtheow rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Stephanie Sun
"The air pressure dips, like before a storm. A keening sound wells up soft and low, as if it's always been there, just outside the range of human hearing. It swells to howling. And then the shadows start to drop from trees, like raindrops after a storm. The darkness pools and gathers and then seethes."

Well, I'm not sure I ever want to go to Joburg.

The humans (and some of the landscapes) at the center of this vivid, if at times too cheeky, urban fantasy noir are damaged shells of their former se
Feb 06, 2012 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-and-fantasy
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
Sep 06, 2011 Kelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 23, 2013 Evgeny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
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
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
Apr 05, 2016 Kaisu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ein Stil, an dem man sich gewöhnen muss, aber es macht Spaß Zinzi und ihrem Faultier zu lauschen!
I hardly know where to begin to say what I think of this story.

It was a wild ride, slipping and sliding through paragraphs of text that I understood and were brilliantly written to lines of slang and gibberish that made no sense at all. From one chapter that I could follow the action to another where I had no idea what was going on, until I reread it over and over a few times. It was a slow beginning but picked up in the middle. Then it slammed from one thing to another. Pretty gruesome last ch
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

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
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Lauren Beukes is an award-winning, best-selling novelist who also writes screenplays, TV shows, comics and journalism. Her books have been translated into 26 languages and have been optioned for film and TV.

Her awards include the Arthur C Clarke Award, the prestigious University of Johannesburg prize, the August Derleth Prize, the Strand Critics Choice Award and the RT Thriller of the Year. She’s
More about Lauren Beukes...

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“Fashion is only different skins for different flavours of you.” 18 likes
“Traffic in Joburg is like the democratic process. Every time you think it's going to get moving and take you somewhere, you hit another jam.” 7 likes
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