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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Improved Second Novel
This book is Lauren Beukes' second cyberpunk novel. As with her first novel, Moxyland, 'Zoo City' is set in an alternate-world South Africa. 'Moxyland', though intriguing, failed to sustain my interest all the way through. It flitted repeatedly from character to character, all of whom I struggled to empathise with. 'Zoo City' is an altogether more satisfying...
Published on 29 Sep 2010 by Quicksilver

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Zoo City.
The subject material is interesting and the relationship between animals and humans is cleverly depicted, but it can be a little convoluted at times in terms of the plot. I don't know if Beuke's did this intentionally but I am a little ambivalent when it comes to cognitive dissonance: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. While no reader likes everything to be spelt...
Published 14 months ago by Kindle Customer


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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Improved Second Novel, 29 Sep 2010
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Zoo City (Paperback)
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This book is Lauren Beukes' second cyberpunk novel. As with her first novel, Moxyland, 'Zoo City' is set in an alternate-world South Africa. 'Moxyland', though intriguing, failed to sustain my interest all the way through. It flitted repeatedly from character to character, all of whom I struggled to empathise with. 'Zoo City' is an altogether more satisfying read.

This time, consistency is brought to the novel by use of single voice. Zinzi is a trying-to-reform addict, who once upon a time, had a bright future ahead of her. All that remains now is a dark and troubled past. The novel's central premise is interesting; those who have sinned are given an animal familiar, which they must succour and sustain. This obvious sign of guilt (in some cases, literally a monkey on the back), makes these 'animalled' sinners social pariahs. They are corralled in a decrepit ghetto known as 'Zoo City'. Alongside these animal familiars comes a supernatural ability. Something minor, and often both a blessing and a curse. Zinzi can find people's lost things.

'Zoo City' is essentially a cyberpunk detective novel. Zinzi is hired to find a missing girl, an assignment that pays well and seems straightforward enough. Of course, things are not what they seem.

Initially, I found the novel a little bewildering. Scene changes happened quickly, sometimes abruptly. A host of characters are introduced, as is a lot of information about Buekes alternate reality. It is refreshing to read a sci-fi novel set away from the Northern/Western hemisphere, but when reading from middle England, downtown Jo'burg can seem like another world, even without adding in 'Mashavi, 'aposymbiots' and 'Muti' mysticism. The interleaving of excerpts from fictitious newspapers, scientific papers and websites, bring a deep authenticity to Beukes world, but they do also add to the confusion.

Then, about halfway through, it all slipped into place, and I found myself deeply immersed in Beukes' creation. Zinzi is an engaging narrator throughout, and after a number of teasing hints about her back story, it is impossible not to root for this tough-but-vulnerable character. There are some glorious pop-culture references, a wry nod to Philip Pullman and a wonderful use of a Phil Collins lyric, that is worth the cover price alone.

The novel's storyline is a pleasing take on a fairly traditional private eye story, with some distinctly non-traditional elements. The novel's conclusion is both gruesome and exciting, and its denouement is pleasantly unexpected. I finished 'Zoo City' with a distinct sense of satisfaction. It is a novel that is somehow greater than the sum of its parts, and well worth a read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic in more ways than one, 2 Oct 2012
This review is from: Zoo City (Paperback)
(Review cross-posted from my blog, The Lightning Tree:[...]

Lauren Beukes's second novel, Zoo City, won the Arthur C. Clarke award last year - and in this humble blogger's opinion, the accolade is definitely deserved. A more gripping, imaginative, and smart read you would be hard-pressed to find. Zoo City has the works: witty, well-honed prose, a tough, wily protagonist, an exciting thriller-style plot, and a central concept that is fantastic in more ways than one. But this novel is also far from formulaic. Plunging us into the perilous, grimy warren of the Zoo City ghetto - an alternate version of the Hillbrow district of Johannesburg - Beukes conjures a twisting tale that, whilst flavoured as a noir thriller, is made unique and multi-faceted by its interweaving with the novel's magical concept. For Zoo City is populated by the `animalled', also known as `zoos' or, if you wants to get technical about it, `aposymbiotes': people who have, by dint of a former crime, come into possession of a shavi - a magical animal that accompanies them everywhere, and with it a magical talent (also called a shavi). These animals are at once companions and brands of criminality, and the aposymbiotes of Beukes's alternate world find themselves the victims of personal and institutional prejudice. The onset of this phenomenon, during the 1980s, marks the divergence of the world of Zoo City with our own.

The protagonist, Zinzi December (great name, no?) is `animalled', going about her various (and often questionable) business with a large sloth draped across her back or stuffed into her bag. His name is... Sloth. And Sloth, incidentally, is a wonderful character in his own right - endearing and timid, he is often disapproving or frightened by his mistress's actions. For Zinzi is no shrinking violet: sharp and hard-assed, she is an ex-addict-turned-conwoman, struggling to pay off the huge debt she owes to her dealer while also maintaining a relationship with her lover, Benoît. But further complications await her when, because of her own shavi which allows her to track down lost objects, she is employed by an ageing music industry don to find a missing person. Zinzi might be used to Zoo City's ways, but the search takes her into places she never wanted to go, and dredges up more than she ever anticipated.

There were many things that made this book stand out for me. Firstly, there's the premise of the `aposymbiotes'. Comparisons have been drawn with the daemons of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, but Beukes's creatures have an entirely different feel about them. The magic in Beukes's novel is scruffy, dingy, down-and-dirty stuff - these animals may be magical but they're as real as they come, complete with matted fur, chipped claws, and gummy, infected eyes. The concept of the shavi is also entirely bound up with the cultural context of the novel: Zoo City is entrenched within South Africa, its plot, its characters, and its ideas inextricable from that location, resonating with its social and political history. Even if, like me, you don't know much about SA, it's still clear how very situated Beukes's story is. What's more, it has encouraged me to find out more about SA (not that you need to do this to enjoy the book) - and that can never be a bad thing.

Secondly, there's Beukes's brilliant writing. The majority of the story is told in the first person, from Zinzi's perspective, and Beukes brings Zinzi's voice to life with zest, humour, and downright fantastic prose. Beukes's style is intelligent, clear, snappy, and often very funny as the reader piggybacks through Zoo City's streets with Zinzi as their cynical guide. And yet, Zinzi is no `tough chick' stereotype. Beukes has written a thoroughly rounded and fascinating character, and throughout her adventures we also witness her dealing with her feelings for Benoît - the relationship played out in an unsentimental yet affecting way - and also with her deep-set guilt. For, of course, as Zinzi has a shavi, she must have committed some crime... and allusions to a terrible incident involving her brother hover perpetually in the back of her mind, emerging into the narrative in fragments when her guilt comes to the fore.

But Beukes fleshes out her story even further by inserting other perspectives into the novel. Including news articles as chapter epigraphs is by no means a new idea (a great example is in Tad Williams's Otherland saga - whose protagonist is also South African, incidentally), but Beukes pulls it off with panache. Indeed, these addenda are more than epigraphs, as Beukes donates whole chapters to them. What's more, they are not only news stories, but also email transcripts, DVD blurbs and viewer comments, and prisoners' testimonies. This device allows Beukes to step outside of her first person narrator, giving readers a wider glimpse of life in this alternative Earth, and also nods to the vast, varied textual output of our modern, technological world - and to what seemingly small things - like DVD blurbs - can tell us about a society and its views. For me, these interjections also served to highlight just how talented Beukes is. Adapting her writing to these many different voices, with their different biases and agendas, with such ease and authority, Beukes shows that she's a writer with intimidating skills.

As to Zoo City's plot, it wasn't what I expected - and was the better for it. I won't go into detail, as I don't want to spoil the surprises that Beukes springs upon the reader. I'll just say that if you combine magic, murder, and the music industry; sift in crumbling blocks of flats and street gunfights; mix with dread of a strange, black `Undertow' waiting to claim the `animalled'; add the blood of a shavi... Well, then you get at least a flavour of what Zoo City is. But to get the full, strange, bursting taste, you're gonna have to read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Zoo City., 10 May 2013
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This review is from: Zoo City (Paperback)
The subject material is interesting and the relationship between animals and humans is cleverly depicted, but it can be a little convoluted at times in terms of the plot. I don't know if Beuke's did this intentionally but I am a little ambivalent when it comes to cognitive dissonance: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. While no reader likes everything to be spelt out for them, I think a little more brevity would have done this novel a service. In spite of these criticisms I found it to be an interesting read; it was at least thought provoking if nothing else.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting Discovery, 9 April 2013
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This review is from: Zoo City (Paperback)
Lauren Beukes is a brilliant find. I absolutely loved Zoo City - the writing is careful and delicious, the story draws you in effortlessly and unfolds in an intelligent, inspiring way. You won't be able to put it down. Read this book, you won't regret it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best thing for ages and ages, 31 Mar 2013
This review is from: Zoo City (Paperback)
I stumbled on this while wiling away time at St Pancras, waiting for a train. The review quote from William Gibson caught my eye. I will leave the plot to other reviews. This book is stunning. It's got everything: brilliant writing that flows so well and has such vivid detail that the world it describes is effortlessly real; beautiful imaginative word play, a wonderful, nuanced main character; interesting ideas; and an exciting plot. It's 'urban fantasy' but it crosses genre in many ways. It's the sort of book you'd be sorry not to have read because you'd be missing out on something original and fantastic. You can probably tell that it blew me away!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 9 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Zoo City (Kindle Edition)
From the perspective of a South African thats been out the country many years, it has brought back so many references. A brilliantly original book, that makes me feel the way I felt reading early Tom Robbins, but with a frame of reference to home! Totally recommend, kept me excited to read more; but slang may be foreign to anyone with no SA connection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book - a little unbelievable at the end..., 22 Jun 2012
By 
Emmster "the book wurme" (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Zoo City (Paperback)
This is Lauren Beukes' second novel and set in a similar dystopian future South Africa as her first (Moxyland). If you've read Moxyland and enjoyed it - then rest assured this is more of the same: gritty low-life characters, violence, plenty of techno-speak and tool-cool-for-school attitudes.

One of the central features of the story is that, at some point in the past, those who kill started to become "animalled". That is, an animal is plucked from somewhere else in the world, inextricably transported to the killer's side and forever tethered to their "host" with a psychic bond. The flip-side of this coin is that the murderer is usually imbued with a unique strange power. The central character "Zinzi December" is animalled and has a gift for finding people through their lost items. The story gets started on this basis but, as you'd expect, many things are not as they seem and a seemingly straight-forward job quickly spirals out of control.

I read the book quickly (a couple of sittings) and thought the characters, dialogue and description were all good. My one gripe (and why i've rated as four stars rather than five) is that I couldn't bring myself to quite believe the baddy's actions and motivation in the context of what he/she was trying to achieve - when "all was revealed" in the final pages. I can't really say more than that without putting in spoilers - which I don't want to do.

If you've read Moxyland and want more of the same - you should buy this. I don't think you'll be disappointed. If you've not read Moxyland but like violent cyber-punk set in a dystopian future, again, buy it! If you like it, you can go and buy Moxyland and have twice the fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars modern version of cyberpunk, 6 May 2012
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Zoo City (Paperback)
Zoo City is a highly imaginative and creative story; a kind of modern version of cyberpunk - blending new cultural forms and urban dystopias into a rich kaleidoscope of colour and action. Indeed, it reminded me of William Gibson circa Virtual Light. This is no bad thing. Beukes is something of a 'word pimp' in her own words, fashioning some nice prose and a richly realised world. I suspect it is a book that needs a second reading to fully appreciate all the nuances of the story. There is so much going on, some of which is only obliquely explained, that it sometimes a little difficult to follow what is unfolding. And whilst the story is engaging and clever, it is also seemed a little uneven its telling. That said, Zinzi December is an interesting character that's fun to spend some time with and the book is populated with other colourful folk and subcultures. Overall, a entertaining read that works on different levels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping!, 1 Jan 2012
By 
P. J. Woodroffe (uk) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zoo City (Kindle Edition)
Once I started reading Zoo city, I could not put it down. I read it in two days. The characters were complex, and vivid. The scenery was very urban, sometimes familiar, and sometimes strange, refugee centres, neglected buildings filled with people on the margins. The descriptions of magic were brilliant, and at times had echoes of real practices, such as the use of animal parts to impart powers. The pace of the story was just right, and the chapters quite short. Sometimes there was a switch of dimension - a description of a dream, a scientific paper that explained some concept of the tale. If you loved Pullman's Dark Materials, and Mievilles Perdido Street Station, you will love this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, sub-Gibson text, 24 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Zoo City (Kindle Edition)
Interesting novel, with shades of William Gibson (cyber punk) and Philip Pullman's animal 'daemons' (and a smattering of 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', though Beukes may not like the comparison). Nicely paced and good to see a modern techno thriller based in South Africa. Lags a little in parts (needed some more editing), but the central character, Zinzi, is feisty and the plot intriguing. This is Beukes' second urban fantasy, and I do plan now to read her first ;)
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Zoo City
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
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