Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review: Zoo City

Zoo CityZoo City by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zoo City by South African writer Lauren Beukes is a must read for anyone looking for capable, resourceful female characters or a damn good urban fantasy mystery.

Zinzi December is and ex-reporter, ex-junkie with and unusual companion in Sloth. Sloth is an Animal, a familiar that the guilty are cursed with it. When a person receives and Animal, they are instantly known as a criminal, an outcast. Animals are a powerful magic, tying their person to a black hole called the Undertow and bestowing them with a special ability. Zinzi's ability is that of finding lost things.

At it's heart, Zoo City is a good mystery novel surrounding a missing person, something that Zinzi usually refuses to do. By taking the case, she must call on favors from those of her pre-jail, junkie life. Her pre-Sloth life. This is where Beukes shows her skill by weaving information from past and present together to create a draw that sucks the reader in. Beukes never gives the reader everything at once, forcing them to put the pieces together. All the threads are there, another sign of Beukes skill.

The book is written in first person present tense adding to the intensity. The point of view is even more effective given that Zinzi's old skill set is journalism. I can her her voice in every word, every sentence. She reeks of the intelligent person who made very, very bad decisions, but is much tougher for her ordeal. I love Zinzi. She's well rounded and whip smart.

Beukes also immerses the reader in a very well-built world set in Johannesburg, South Africa. From Zinzi's dank apartment in a condemned building to the the music scene she's forced to investigate, all of it is tangible and real. You can see the textures and hear the sounds. Beukes even includes little bits from fictional documentaries, thesis papers, and newspaper clippings.

For fantasy junkies, the magic system is simple but complete. All the rules are there for the reader to understand.

As if you need another reason to read this book, Zoo City is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

So, take my word for it.
  Read this book.

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