I am so completely undecided about this damned book! Zoo City has got to be one of the most intensely irritating yet ultimately rewarding books that I have read in a very long time. The first book by Lauren Beukes that I picked up, it was the cover that grabbed hold of me.
Zinzi finds lost things, a talent she utilises to etch out a meagre and depressing living in the slummy Johannesburg where this book is set. We are taken into the seedy world of an alternate universe Jozi where the burden of sins committed by her inhabitants are manifested in the forms of animals. Each person guilty of a crime is allocated an animal, tied to them as a familiar would be. Zinzi carries Sloth following the death of her brother which she was tried and jailed for.
Beukes certainly has a knack for setting the scene and taunting the imagination. As I started the first part I found myself easily falling into the Johannesburg she presents us – this is also possibly because Jozi is already considered to be fairly slummy by many South Africans despite the rejuvenation projects currently underway.
I will not deny that I find myself thoroughly enjoying strong female protagonists lately, and Zoo City is no exception. Zinzi is the kinda woman I love being friends with. She is not polished or refined in anyway – she is a woman that has many flaws, is aware of them but no less determined to eek out a future. She is witty and has no problem expressing the cynicism that she feels towards all she encounters. And she is strong AF emotionally and mentally which I have such mad appreciation for.
Each character we meet is beautifully individual and while I do feel certain relationship conclusions needed a little more info and closure (Gio and the “Was it Zoo enough for you” article as an example) each interaction is carefully considered and woven into the story really well.
I loved Sloth just by the way. I love Sloths as is, and this little dude… ah man I love him.
There are plot twists that made me feel ill though. Just for the sheer shock it gave me because Beukes does not rely on happy endings in the slightest. And I was left reeling and attempting to find some will to continue to the end. Also… Benoit’s family dude – I NEED TO KNOW!?
There is more I’d liked to have known about Zinzi, particularly surrounding her brother’s death and the events that followed as well as lead up to that event. I feel this may have been intentional in fitting the book to the character but also wonder if this was maybe something that hadn’t been considered as entirely necessary.
If you enjoy well plotted and developed urban fantasies with a brilliant mash up of thriller, semi-paranormal and dystopian elements – this is definitely worth a read. I returned Zoo City to the library and have checked out another book by Beukes which I cannot wait to dive into. Something tells me each offering from her will be uniquely captivating.