This novel won the Arthur C Clarke Science Fiction award in 2011, so Lauren Beukes is getting known around the world. She has a third novel coming out soon and because she is South African, I thought I would give Zoo City a try.
I’m not a science fiction reader – I think the last one I read was Dune in the 1980s – so I cannot compare this to others in the same genre. I haven’t finished the book yet, but have to give it back to a friend soon, so thought I would just say that this book is wonderfully wild, weird, wacky and highly readable. What an imagination Lauren Beukes has.
It is set in a dystopian Johannesburg – having grown up in Johannesburg, I was able to recognise some of the places she writes about – and the main character is a young woman called Zinzi December, who has a sloth clinging her back. Anyone who has committed a crime gets ‘animalled’, ie: becomes magically attached to an animal familiar, so criminals are instantly identifiable.
Each owner gets a psychic power from his/her animal, however, has to stay close to the animal or suffer extreme withdrawal symptoms. Zinzi’s power is her ability to find lost things and, in a desperate attempt to earn money and get out of Zoo City (the inner-city slum), she takes on the job of finding a missing pop star.
As I said, I haven’t finished the book, but I am overwhelmed by the originality of Beukes’ writing and the accurate depiction of humanity, albeit it in an alternate reality.