BOOK REVIEW: Zoo City

Zinzi December finds people. Even if they don’t want to be found like missing pop starlet Songweza. Trouble is, when you go turning over stones and digging up secrets it isn’t long before the real truth comes to light. A truth the local crime lord, dark magician and beast master, will kill to keep hidden.

 

First off I want to say I really enjoyed this book, the idea of the criminals receiving animal familiers and some sort of ability is most definitely new to me, however I have come to expect in these types of books that the lead character always has something unique about them, though this has to be one of my favourites out of what I have read, when all is said and done when a book is written this well there is no need to complain.

I liked the lead character Zinzi more or less from the off, she made a joke, made me chuckle and I found my self saying to myself “I like her”, then through her actions I started to go off her somewhat, as she has somewhat of a lax moral code, as evidence from the scams she was part of and seemingly getting deeper into the ‘organisation’ that sets up these cons, she is a likeable but flawed character who has been through the ringer because of making the wrong choices and ended up with an odd new companion and an ability that is part blessing and part curse and has set herself on a path to redeem her and create a better life.

The abilities are an interesting part of this story, Beukes only goes into detail with Zinzi, but they seem to be varied and if lucky useful. I really liked Beukes description of how Zinzi’s manifests in her eyes, as a mass of black threads emanating from each person, a thread for each person that she can tap into and gain visions from.

The sloth is a great character in it’s own right, a constant companion to Zinzi, a constant voice in her ear, sometimes literally steering her to make certain choices over others, I got the sense that their was a genuine friendship between the animal and Zinzi, more than just owner and pet, that she liked having the sloth around, unlike others that either see their animals as a tool or a burden.

The world of Zoo City is a vivid one, Zoo City, Johannesberg and its inhabitants fully came alive for me and felt very natural, from the annoying friends of her boyfriend to how the residents of her building all emerge to watch a scene of violence unveil from the terraces, it felt natural, which is an achievement that should not be underlooked, especially when you are reading a story such as this.

One of the real star’s of the book is the city itself, Beukes does a great job of describing the city, she gets the level of detail perfect, so I could picture the place but there was never too much so it got in the way and the way she worked in the descriptions meant they never really stood out for me but still managed to do their job.

The action in this book is writen very well, Beukes wrote the action as detached set pieces, when Zinzi is the observer, it had a reporter quality to it, but when the action is up close and personal it ups the adrenaline and becomes frantic.

Before reading I looked up some reviews and they had various theories on the characters and their animals, for a while I did not spot any logic behind the animals these people inherit, this is something that is never really discussed in the book and I like the fact it is never plainly laid out, my theory is that it is tied to the core nature of the person when they commited the crime.

Beukes lays the ground work for the last third of the book quite early on in the story, which I liked, but I felt the book got a little messy as it started in on the final acts and for a short while I got somewhat confused, this however did not last long.

I liked the ending of this chapter in Zinzi’s life, while not a perfect ending for Zinzi it wrapped up this chapter in her life nicely, but kept the world open enough that if Beukes wanted to she could write the next chapter in Zinzi’s life, which I for one would like to read more of.

GS Rating: 8/10

GS Reviewer: Glen Davies

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