Form to An Edgy Thrill Ride into an Animalistic Jo'burg

14 June 2010 | 11:00 AM | Author Lood

Zoo City book jacket
Cover courtesy of Jacana Media

R145

 

All it takes is one Afghan warlord to show up with a Penguin in a bulletproof vest and everything science and religion thought they knew goes right out the window.

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About the Book:

Set in a Johannesburg not unlike our own, the novel features Zinzi December, an underclass tough-chick with a witty mouth, a sloth on her back who pulls 419 scams for a living. She also occasionally finds lost things, for a fee of course. When she is hired to do her least favourite of jobs, finding a missing person, she is pulled deeper into the festering world of the slums where criminals rule with their animal companions. And in this environment, twisted by crime and magic, she has to confront the dark secrets of her past.

Review:

Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City is by far one of the hottest locally published books in South Africa at the moment. Combining African magic with very real issues, Zoo City is urban fantasy so strangely familiar you constantly have to remind yourself that it is a work of fiction.

The use of first person narrative in the present tense complements the storyline spectacularly. You find yourself laughing along with Zinzi’s internal dialogue, you share her emotion as she recollects past experiences and you get a first hand experience of Beukes’ Johannesburg. From Hillbrow to Berea, gated middle class suburbs to golf estates, the world itself reminds you of the Johannesburg of today. But as the author puts it so descriptively in the book, “[a]ll it takes is one Afghan warlord to show up with a Penguin in a bulletproof vest and everything science and religion thought they knew goes right out the window.” And that includes everything you thought you knew about Johannesburg.

Beukes’ previous novel, Moxyland, was showered with praise and snapped up by the international cross-genre Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror publisher, Angry Robot who used it as one of four launch titles for the imprint. Fans of Moxyland should not despair, Zoo City will meet your wildest expectations with both hands tied behind its back.

Beautifully written, Zoo City is by far a work of pure literary wonder. Beukes does not simply write a story, she crafts a world and brings it to life with words. As Zoo City sinks its animalistic teeth into readers, they will find themselves unable to put the book down. This novel shows a command of the English language that every author should strive for. It manages to be lyrical, witty, engaging and literary without alienating the audience.

Verdict:

This book is a must read for lovers of South African fiction and urban fantasy alike. It is edgy and pacey and like a rollercoaster ride, it sweeps you up, spins you around, turns you upside down and dumps you out on the other end, heady and breathless and yearning for more.