Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Lauren Beukes - Zoo City

Title: Zoo City
Author: Lauren Beukes
Pub. year: 2011
Pages: 384
Editor: Angry Robot
Summary: 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 festering slum where the criminal underclass and their animal companions live in the shadow of hell’s undertow.
Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the maw of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she’ll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own.

First time I travel that south with a book, and I must say I am happily surprised by the pleasure I had to make that trip. Zoo City is a future decrepit neighborhood of Johannesburg, where the criminals live with their animals. Zinzi is one of them: with Sloth on her back and the power to find lost things, she tries her best to get out of this mess she got herself into. But it's not by mixing with the wrong crowd that it's gonna happen...

This book is pretty difficult to talk about—on the one hand it's great and surprising, and on the other hand it's so complex and rich that I wouldn't know where to start without spoiling you. Maybe it's just a newbie feeling, but that's the first time I see a South-African story getting that much visibility (which it totally deserves) and I'm wondering, why is it so that we always read American/English stories (and well, French, because you know, French girl and all that) while there sure are wonders to discover elsewhere?

I fell totally in love with the atmosphere of the story, somewhat dark and corrupted but at the time pretty pleasant, especially when Zinzi goes exploring around the odd neighborhoods. The characters all have strong personalities, even the bad guys which still intrigue me (I wish there was more to know about them). And as if the story was not extraordinary enough, the SF side coming up with the animals, the abilities and the Undertow make it downright fascinating.

I wish I could tell you more but I think you should discover it by yourself; enjoy the fresh and exotic style of Lauren Beukes (be prepared for some African slang!) and the captivating adventure of Zinzi December and Sloth!

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