Title: Zoo City
Author: Lauren Beukes
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: December 28, 2010 (US)
From Goodreads: Zinzi has a talent for finding lost things. To save herself, she's got to find the hardest thing of all: The truth.
Going into Zoo City, I didn't know what to expect. This is my first novel by Lauren Beukes, but I have heard great things about her other novel, Moxyland. What I found was a very unique and exciting experience in an urban fantasy world, one I haven't enjoyed as much since I read War for the Oaks by Emma Bull.
The story centers around Zinzi December, a young woman living in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her life isn't going so great, having once had a job as a journalist, she is now writing scam emails to pay back a large debt. Things change when she is approached by a music producer who wants to hire her to find a missing recording artist. You see, Zinzi has a special gift: she can find lost things. Not people, she insists, but she cannot turn down the job, which can essentially pay enough to cover her debt and beyond.
Zinzi can find lost things because that's her ability she manifested when she became Animalled. In the world Beukes has created, something called the Zoo Plague emerged, causing anyone who commits criminal acts (we don't know the extent of the requirements) is bonded to an animal for life. This situation is coined Acquired Aposymbiotic Familiarism and no one really know why or how it works. We are shown very little, mostly through separate pieces of information such as web pages or magazine/newspaper articles.
Zinzi was burdened with a Sloth (and that's what she calls it). One of the fascinating aspects of this novel is realizing and imagining what kind of an effect this sort of thing could have on society. Zinzi murdered her brother and she will forever be seen as an Animalled. Society has shunned these people, creating a whole new social class beneath everything else. Some have even used this to gain fame. It completely changes what we know and think about people; just by looking at someone and seeing they possess an Animal, you know they have done wrong at some point in their past.
The story itself is a noir mystery: the search for the missing young singer, Songweza. We follow Zinzi through her telling of the story while she uncovers a larger plot after some twists and turns. At times, you really lose yourself in the investigation and actually forget you're reading a novel about people with Animals and special abilities. Beukes has the ability to create such an original and fascinating world so subtly I forgot there was any other.
What I did yearn for more was more information on the Zoo Plague: why did this happen? How did it happen? I don't know if we will ever know, and I'm fine with that, but I did wish for more. Overall, I recommend this book for anyone looking for a great urban fantasy not quite like anything else. A
I received a review copy of this book from the Angry Robot Army program.