Zoo City

In Book Reviews on October 5, 2014 at 10:28 am
Angry Robot 2010

Angry Robot 2010

“You play golf now as well as Blood Skies?” Des says mockingly.
“No, I hate golf. It’s the genteel version of seal-clubbing, only not as much fun.”

Nutshell blurb: Zinzi December is a criminal. In this particular society, criminal are lumped with animal familiars and have certain powers. Zinzi’s power is that she can find lost things. She ends up on a mission to find a missing person and from that point everything goes wrong.

I fell in love with the writing style of this book. Lauren Beukes has a wry sense of humour as well as a knack forΒ description, both of which greatly appeal to me. I put the golf quote up there, incidentally, because that’s exactly how I feel about that particular sport. There were so many lines in this book that I could relate to which made my reading experience that much more fun.

The main character isn’t a very likable person. She actively participates in email scams. You know the ones. Some tribal princess is in dire need of help. She can’t access her vast fortune and needs your help (and money) to do it. Of course, you’ll get a cut of her considerable wealth once she has access to it. That sort of thing. However, Ms. Beukes somehow makes her likable. It was very easy to overlook her criminal activity and sympathise with her. That takes skill.

The animal aspect was very cool as well. (A lot of people have likened the concept to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I’m not going to do that here because I’ve never gotten around to reading those books. I just wanted to let you know that in case you decided to say ‘Oh hey, this sounds like Philip Pullman’s books.’) It was interesting that only criminals get ‘animalled’. I would love to have an animal that went everywhere with me. Zinzi has a sloth, which is pretty darn cool. Bad things happen to you if your animal gets killed, though. It kind of reminds me of this (skip to 1.30):

Not very nice.

Overall, this was a really good book and as I said, I love her writing. However, the ending was a bit much for even me. I can sum it up in two words: BLOOD BATH. Now, I read lots of zombie, dystopia and horror books so I have a pretty high tolerance for blood, guts and gore but this exceeded what even I find acceptable. I found myself cringing quite a lot, but not in a good way. The violence was excessive, wanton even, and I didn’t think that it served the story in any way. It left me with feelings of disappointment and sadness when I finished.

It is a good read and I definitely don’t regret spending my time and money on it, however, if you are at all squeamish, approach this book at your peril. It won’t deter me from buying any of her other books, though. She is very talented and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

  1. I’ve had Zoo City sitting on my (digital) “to read” shelf for some time. Good to know you found it (mostly) a pleasant read. I’ll try to ignore your description of the ending, though, when I dive in…

  2. It’s not exactly criminals who get animaled, but people who are responsible for the death of someone else, be it by intentionally killing them or, as with Zinzi, causing their death through negligence. The ending was a bit much, yes.

    If you haven’t yet, you should read The Shining Girls. Much better than Zoo City in my opinion.

    • Ahhh, I didn’t really get that. Maybe that part didn’t sink in. Was it explained in the book? I would have liked to have had more background on the whole concept.

      I’ve just had a look at The Shining Girls on Goodreads and it looks really good so I’ve added it. As a bonus, I’ve noticed that Stephen King has added it to his Goodreads list and Scott K. Andrews has given it 5 stars. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for the recommendation!

      • It wasn’t explained explicitly, so it was easy to miss.

        There’s a review of Shining Girls on my blog (spoiler free) if you want to get a better idea of it. There’s a link on the Books 2013 page. It was a challenging read, due to the way she wrote it – it’s hard at first keeping the different timelines straight – but you can clearly see that Beukes grew as a writer between the two novels. I want to read her newest one, Broken Monsters, but haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet.

      • Yeah, sometimes I get so caught up in a story that I miss things. I’ll reread a book this good, so hopefully I’ll catch anything I missed the second time around.

        Shining Girls looks very intriguing. It looks like she’s got lots of stuff out. I’ll have to see what I can find. I keep seeing Moxyland in the shops.

        Here’s the link to your review of Shining Girls in case anyone else would like to read it:

      • I haven’t read Moxyland yet, but I’ve heard good things about it as well. I think she wrote that one before Zoo City.

        Thanks for posting the link. I hesitate to post links to my blog on other people’s sites, even if it’s relevant πŸ˜‰

      • Not to worry. We’ve known each other long enough that you can post relevant links on my posts. πŸ˜€

  3. Hey girl!! Remember me?! I fell out of the blogging scene when I had my baby, but I’m baaaaaack! Let’s keep in touch again, yeah?! I’d love to comment share on blog posts again.. stop by and say hi sometime!

    • Hello there! Welcome back to the blog scene. I’ve taken a short break recently. I’m just about to do a post to see if I feel like getting back into it. Good to hear from you!

  4. That cover is gorgeous and I’m always up for a good horror book! Adding it to my goodreads right now πŸ˜€

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