Sunday, October 9, 2011
100 Books 53 - Lauren Beukes' ZOO CITY
A lot of my friends recommended this book to me, and boy am I glad I 1) took their advice and 2) got around to it sometime this year.
This, my friends, is an utterly unique and utterly entertaining read.
Set in a Johannesburg, South Africa in which a certain kind of magic (muti) works and in which the commission of a crime or other serious sin earns one an animal (that may or may not, via the cultural associations we have with that animal, be a commentary on the sin itself) as a constant companion much in the mode of the daemons of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, this story of a hip young music journalist gone to seed has a vibe and an energy and a logic like no other. The world is seedy and compelling and sexy and utterly believable, which offsets what is otherwise a fairly ordinary private investigator/crime/noir plotline and makes it so fresh you can almost taste it.
Our heroine, Zinzi, basically stood by and watched her brother die, and is now accompanied by a sloth, who mutely comments throughout the story on Zinzi's actions and inactions as she investigates -- partly via her shavi, or the power that came with her sloth, for finding lost objects -- the disappearance of a pair of twins who are Jo'burg's latest pop music sensation.
It's the literary equivalent of an exceptionally rich bowl of gumbo followed by some really strong black coffee and I loved every second of it.
And it appears I'm not alone in thinking so, because Zoo City won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Well deserved!