Thursday, 5 January 2012

Zoo City - Lauren Beukes

Zoo City is set in a world where if you do something wrong your karma comes back in the form of an animal. An animal you have to slug around as separation can lead to sickness and death. This is what happened to Zinzi. Despite having everything she needed she led a fast paced life which ended with her living in Zoo city with a sloth and a mass of drug bills. Scams and searching for lost things are the only way she is able to survive. On finding one lost thing she is caught up in a murder and the pay she was relying on is no longer coming in. She has no choice but to take the one job she hates. Missing persons. Reluctantly she starts investigating but soon finds that there is more to this than she is being told. It's not long before she is in danger herself.

This was more alternate universe than sci fi but it was a great way to ease in to the challenge. I've been wanting to read it since I saw it reviewed in SFX over a year ago and then when it won the Arthur C. Clark award. From the first page I was immediately sucked in to the story. Not so much for the mystery behind the girl who had gone missing. It was for the story behind the animals. The book is split up with interviews and news items and a lot of it links back to when animals first appeared and how those with them are then ostracised from society. We see it first hand with Zinzi who has to overcome prejudice just so she can carry out her investigation. I loved it and the whole idea of it. Reminded me very much of the animals in Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. In fact there is even a reference to it but of course in this book it's not scene in quite so much a positive light.

I loved the atmosphere of the book and the fast pace. The setting was perfect. You definitely got the feel of Zinzi living in what can only be a slum but there is a sense of community too. Zoos (as they are called) pull together although there is still gangs and killings. As I said the mystery was secondary for me but I still enjoyed it. While I did have my suspicions as to who was really up to no good I certainly wasn't expecting the final outcome.

I would give the book a full star rating apart from one complaint. It felt like the ending was just a little too rushed. I would have liked it pulled out just a little bit more. Other than that it was a brilliant read and I did like the very ending of the book. I would like to hope that another book set in this universe might be on the cards as I would love to read more.

This is the first book I read for Ellie's sci fi challenge over at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. Ellie picked this one for anyone who wanted to read along although it no one had to in order to join the challenge. If you want to see what others have been reading Ellie has posted links here.


  1. Sounds really interesting. I thought of the Northern Lights books too as soon as I read it, but it sounds like the author does a good job of distinguishing their book from Pullman's.

  2. Yes, she did. Through the main character your could see the attachment people have to their animals but also the shame they feel when others know they have done something.

  3. I'll be back to read this when I've finished myself - just going to tweet your review though :)

  4. Thanks Ellie. Hope you are enjoying the book. I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

  5. I agree, the ending was a tad rushed, but if it aimed to leave me wanting more then it definitely succeeded there :)

  6. Can safely say that it did the same with me.