- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Angry Robot (July 19 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0857662163
- ISBN-13: 978-0857662163
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.6 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #533,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Zoo City Paperback – Jul 19 2011
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A Publisher's Weekly Best of 2011 Sci Fi & Fantasy Pick!
"Beukes's energetic noir phantasmagoria, the winner of this year's Arthur C. Clarke Award, crackles with original ideas." --Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times Book Review
"Beukes (Moxyland) delivers a thrill ride that gleefully merges narrative styles and tropes, almost single-handedly pulling the "urban fantasy" subgenre back towards its groundbreaking roots." - Publisher's Weekly, starred review
"Zoo City is a fabulous outing from an extremely promising writer... [it] has so much fabulous wordplay, imaginative settings and scenarios, and such a dark and cynical heart that I was totally riveted by it." - Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
“In Zoo City we have an unfamiliar land full of familiars, a broken Johannesburg
of the near future peopled with damaged wonders. Proving her debut novel was no fluke, she writes better than I wish I could on my best day. If our words are bullets, Lauren Beukes is a marksman in a world of drunken machine-gunners, firing her ideas and images into us with a sly and deadly accuracy, wasting nothing, never missing. I’ll follow her career as long as she’s willing to write and I’m able to read.” - Bill Willingham, creator of Fables
“Zoo City is a story of mysteries unfolding, and it is a story well told. But it’s the world around the story, and the words that guide us through, that make it something more than simply marvellous. With her subtle, intimate descriptions of the roads we walk in this crazy city; with characters so deeply twisty you could lose a giant squid in their nebulous hidey holes, and with turns of phrase that are as likely to conjure up Rudyard Kipling, Brenda Fassie or Credo Mutwa as they are to invoke Japanese anime, Doctor Who or the crack in Johnny Cash’s voice as he sings of his greatest loss, this canny authoress has brought real magic to everyday life in Jozi, in what I’m afraid I really am going to end off by describing as an act of unadulterated literature.” - Matthew du Plessis, Times Live
"This book is a must read for lovers of South African fiction and urban fantasy alike. It is edgy and pacey and like a rollercoaster ride, it sweeps you up, spins you around, turns you upside down and dumps you out on the other end, heady and breathless and yearning for more." - Exclus1ves
"Lauren Beukes is an awfully smart writer. In Zoo City her characters ooze attitude, their dialogue is snappy, and her vivid imagery is both original and arresting. What’s more, with an inspired blend of pop-culture savvy and fantasy (just enough, not too much), her depiction of Johannesburg, magical charms and all, feels eerily real... In fact, it feels as incomplete as real life. It’s gritty, it’s tangled and it’s flawed; nothing is polished, nothing perfect. That’s what makes Zoo City so disturbingly, hauntingly, uncompromisingly brilliant." - Jonno Cohen, MiniMonologues
"At times the witty and lyrical prose is sheer magic, the story captivating and the characters exotic, cruel and beautiful while the backdrop of Johannesburg seeths with hidden, lurking dangers around every corner, Zoo City is quite simply captivating." - SciFi & Fantasy Books
"Returning with her second release from Angry Robot, Lauren Beukes stuns with a richly textured venture into a pseudo-fantastical Johannesburg of the future where criminals are magically partnered with animals, and unscrupulous record producers run amok." --SciFiNow
"We all know there is a fine line between genius and madness. So it is with Zoo City ... a story that is remarkable for both its inventiveness and the sharpness of its writing."
- Jason Baki, Kamvision
"A contrast of fragility and extreme imaginative strength, Beukes’s books are going places. She’d better ready herself for one helluva wild ride." - Mandy De Waal, The Daily Maverick
"Beukes has written a book about something deeply important, but she’s willing to stand back and let us figure it out for ourselves." - www.pornokitsch.com
"If you don’t read Zoo City, you’re missing out on one of the best modern books in and outside the fantasy genre." -www.TheRantingDragon.com
"Beukes’s future city is as spiky, distinctive and material a place as any cyberpunkopolis, and quit a bit fresher. The narrative is brisk and well turned, but the great achievement here is tonal: atmospheric, smart and memorable work." -www.locusmag.com
"Ms. Beukes' amazing novel takes the genre to exciting new places, is beautifully written and is a bloody good story." -www.pornokitsch.com, on winning the Red Tentacle Award
"From grimy slums to gang warfare to supernatural horrors, Zoo City is a book of hard edges and nasty surprises. It's also livened up by stabs of sharp, black humour, and the action is unrelenting." - Warpcore SF
"Lauren Beukes brings to Zoo City the observant, cynical eye for the intersection of media, business, and pop culture that animated her debut, Moxyland, and pairs it with a funny, colloquial, and casually poetic first-person narrator and thriller pacing to take urban fantasy to the next level." -www.ideomancer.com
"Zoo City is pure originality ... a book that had me reading it revelling in Beukes' magical way with words." - SF Signal
"Go and read Zoo City and Moxyland by Lauren Beukes – someone took cyberpunk from the toy box, dusted it up and spanked it to shape for the new millennium." -Janos Honkonen, Vornasblogi
"The novel’s greatest triumph is undoubtedly its richly evocative world, at once hostile and compelling, deadly and seductive. It sucks you in and plants your feet firmly on its grimy city pavements, and despite the danger that awaits you around every corner, you can’t help but run to get there, to find the next macabre treasure." -Vianne Venter, Something Wicked
"Beukes does the thing that everyone is always saying writers need to do: Show, don’t tell."
-Brain vs. Book
From the Paperback edition.
About the Author
LAUREN BEUKES is a writer, TV scriptwriter and recovering journalist. For the sake of a story, she’s jumped out of planes and into shark-infested waters and hung out with teen vampires, township vigilantes, and AIDS activists among other interesting folk. When she’s not tutoring her baby daughter in practical ways to take over the world, she also writes books, short stories, magazine articles and TV scripts.
From the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
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That's the premise of Lauren Beukes' brilliantly conceived Zoo City. When someone commits a heinous crime their guilt manifests in the appearance of an animal companion. The human and animal share a link, and the human also derives a special power, or shavi, from this connection. Ex-journalist, ex'drug addict Zinzi December has had her Sloth for a few years now because of her role in the death of her beloved brother. Zinzi is out of prison now and trying to pay off her substantial debts by writing scripts for e-mail 419 scams, and occasionally acting the part of the rescued Nigerian princess or savvy South African business partner when the poor suckers being scammed out of their life savings show up in Johannesburg. Then Zinzi is hired by a reclusive music mogul to find the missing twin sister in his youthful pop group sensation iJusi, and she finds herself thrust back into her shiny, celebrity- and drug-centred old life while she also explores the criminal underbelly of her new world. It isn''t entirely clear which part is worse, or more dangerous.
Beukes does a good job of presenting us with a world just a little bit different from our own, with vastly different consequences. No one knows for sure why, in the 1990s, animal familiars started seeking out dangerous criminals, who become known as aposymbiots, or 'zoos.' No one knows why these people experience intense pain if physically separated from their animal, or why, if the animal dies before the human, the very shadows come to life and swallow the hapless individual whole: the so-called Undertow. The writing is sharp, witty and evocative. Descriptions, such as the reclusive record producer's house smelling like old vase water, Zinzi experiencing a headache 'that could rip off the worst hangover's head and piss down its neck,' or a particularly irritating problem as being akin to a public hair stuck between your teeth, each scene and each bit of dialogue is bang on, and the writing is a joy throughout.
The use of traditional African religious motifs and medicine markets, along with religious and psychological frameworks that are thrust upon zoos, show what a mess the world is. It would have been interesting if Beukes had also explored questions of Apartheid or AIDS through the allegory of the animalled in a more overt way. Too, it isn't clear if the ghettos into which the zoos are ostracized occur all over the world, or if this is unique to the South African experience. Perhaps Beukes wanted to be oblique about these obvious issues or didn't want to focus her urban fantasy on these problems'not every book set in Africa needs to be Cry, the Beloved Country. Part of the book's strength is that it doesn't offer too many details about the zoo phenomenon, but it is also a weakness, because there is so much more that I'd like to see and know about. It leaves the reader feeling a bit frustrated and wanting.
The ending, too, is rushed a bit and the pacing could be a bit more even. The setting, the ontological 'shift,' and the first half the world-building story are more interesting than the ultimate finale and the resolution to the mystery Zinzi is trying to solve.
Overall, Zoo City is a fun, enthralling, dangerous read. A work of immense scope, well-crafted characters, and great intrigue, I can only hope that Lauren Beukes is planning a second installment in this world. It's too good a sandbox not to want to play in again.
conversations, a missing person, suspicious emails, and a murder. The rest
of the novel I spent wondering about the mysteries until their eventual unraveling.
Delivered is an incredibly original South African remix of urban intrigue,
magic and animism. The protagonist, Zinzi December, is a woman with a shady history
who earns a living by her ability to find things and by email scams. She
gets hired by an odious has-been music magnate to find a missing pop star
and becomes embroiled in much more trouble than she bargained for. In Zoo City,
much bubbles beneath the surface.
For politicos, the parallel social commentary on the state of things with
South Africa and relevant neighbours is an important subtext.
With her most recent offering, Lauren Beukes combines elements from
different genres in refreshing ways with a unique voice. She has taken her game
smoothly to the next level, without a single respawn. <from the slowhub>
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Stuff it does right: the world is very well-presented, particularly in it's use of magic, which is never heavy handed. This is basically low-level stuff but it's blended seamlessly into the world, no small trick with such an oddball idea -- this is a world full of people running around with animals, for Pete's sake. Yet you end up buying it, more or less, by the end. Beukes' South African setting may have helped here, as the environmental disparities (a shaman in a Dolce and Gabbino vest who keeps his gross magic elixir in an empty two liter Coke bottle, for instance) come across as charming, somehow fitting. This is a ramshackle world generally, built together from flotsam -- you buy it. It's never over-explained, always a trap for fantasy writers but Beukes leaves a lot of what's going on unstated, which keeps the magic genuinely mysterious and powerful when it does appear. The explanations she does offer are done very cleverly, through other "electronic flotsam" -- a précis of a scientific paper, reviews of a documentary, a music article -- which helps set the world even more. Very clever, this.
I also liked the heroine. I confess to generally not liking female PI books: either the stories retain their edge but the women are laughable Mary Sue's/Wonder Women or the leads are believable but the story itself is a pile of mush. Beukes manages to steer between the Scylla and Charibdes here, Zinzi is a believable woman but the story still has a snap to it. One of the main reasons I think is that Beukes was smart enough not to make her a superheroine: Zinzi is clearly the physical inferior at every action sequence, which helps to up the stakes and feels more "real", honestly. (Things get a bit out of hand at the climax, but even there she mainly outthinks, not out fights, her opponents.) Beukes is also not afraid to show us Zinzi's bad sides, as well: she's good at conning people into talking to her but she's also shown to be a conman more generally, bilking a perfectly nice couple out of their life savings.
Stuff that goes wrong: Actually I think the biggest problems here are editorial, not from Beukes per se. If there was ever a book that needed another pass with the editor, it's ZOO CITY. There are sections here that are charmingly written, even quite well done in a way, but add nothing to the story and probably could've been cut (the whole visit to the "rehab" place, probably there mainly because Beukes went to one and wanted to use her research; the chase sequence in the sewer tunnels, which is well-written but just sort of stuck there). Parts of this seem padded. On the other hand, there are sections that could've used a bit more, the climax in particular seems over-rushed and would've benefitted from a beat or two extra.
There's also a couple of unanswered questions in the story that would've benefitted from some authorial explanation, but I blame Beukes editor for this more than Beukes herself, you have editors to pick up on stuff like this. For instance, I'm not sure, right at the beginning, I understand why Zinzi takes the case, there's a jump from "not on your life" to begrudging acceptance that I just didn't get, and would've benefitted from a paragraph or two of exposition. Similarly -- I'll have to be vague because it's the climax -- we learn the bad guy's motive (and it's very cleverly done), I even buy some of the collateral damage on the way to achieving the motive. We're ultimately told, though, that he's a Very Very Very bad guy, and I'm not sure I really follow that, the reason for all the extra stuff. I think there's a hint why in the story, if you're looking for it, but that too could've been spelled out more.
So a little rough here and there, not perfect, but it does a lot of stuff right. The magic and world is a nice break from most typical fantasy fiction, as well, which also helps. Recommended.
Zinzi is an animalled – a person for whom the shadows rise up out of the earth to give an animal after they commit a crime. If the animal dies, the shadows will rise out of the earth again and take the animalled with it. In Zinzi’s case, she’s got a dead brother and a sloth.
The set up of the “animalled” is very interesting and what makes the story so unique. The animal is like a physical representation of their past sins, but it’s up in the air whether the animal is meant to punish or rehabilitate.
The one bonus of being an “animalled” is that each one comes with a gift. For Zinzi, it’s a knack to find lost things, which is one of the ways in which she makes her living. The plot thus revolves around her tracking down a missing pop star with ensuing complications.
The concept was definitely the greatest thing about the book. Zinzi, a black South African woman trained as a journalist, was a fairly enjoyable antihero, and while I may never have connected to her very closely, I liked reading about her. The setting of Johannesburg was also aptly captured.
The plot is the weakest point. It was serviceable for the most part, but ultimately let me down at the end. I think that an ending needs some sense of achievement or conclusion, of which Zoo City had neither. The mystery may have been solved, but little of it’s end result related to Zinzi. Nor does her character arc provide any sense of growth or satisfaction. In short, there was not a sense of fulfillment. If this was a series, the ending might make sense, but it does not work within the context of a stand alone novel.
I would recommend Zoo City to people looking for an unique urban fantasy story. Despite the weak ending, I found it overall enjoyable and would recommend it.
Zoo City is a dark and gritty part of a dystopian Johannesburg (which, the author notes later make clear, closely resembles the actual Jo'burg). There's been some major change in the world, such that criminals get a supernatural animal showing up and living with them like an inseparable pet (separation brings on agony, death of the animal results in a horrible magical death for the associated person). This also gives them a supernatural power of some kind.
The main character Zinzi December, a former journalist, has a sloth and an ability to find things. Forced out of home and profession by her crime - which resulted in her brother's death - she makes a marginal living by finding things, and as a front for various scams. She's hired/ coerced to find a young pop star who's gone missing.
What I liked: World-building, ideas, pace. Even though it wasn't my kind of book, I kept reading and couldn't put down the book.
Didn't like: Grim-dark, lots of gore, very high body-count with some really icky moments.
No really likeable characters.
I knew I was in trouble when I was most interested in the sloth's happiness.
Glad I read it, but not going back for more.