- Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Angry Robot (December 28, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0857660551
- ISBN-13: 978-0857660558
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 143 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,143,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Zoo City Mass Market Paperback – December 28, 2010
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A Publisher's Weekly Best of 2011 Sci Fi & Fantasy Pick!
"Beukes's energetic noir phantasmagoria, the winner of this year's Arthur C. Clarke Award, crackles with original ideas." --Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times Book Review
"Beukes (Moxyland) delivers a thrill ride that gleefully merges narrative styles and tropes, almost single-handedly pulling the "urban fantasy" subgenre back towards its groundbreaking roots." - Publisher's Weekly, starred review
"Zoo City is a fabulous outing from an extremely promising writer... [it] has so much fabulous wordplay, imaginative settings and scenarios, and such a dark and cynical heart that I was totally riveted by it." - Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
“In Zoo City we have an unfamiliar land full of familiars, a broken Johannesburg
of the near future peopled with damaged wonders. Proving her debut novel was no fluke, she writes better than I wish I could on my best day. If our words are bullets, Lauren Beukes is a marksman in a world of drunken machine-gunners, firing her ideas and images into us with a sly and deadly accuracy, wasting nothing, never missing. I’ll follow her career as long as she’s willing to write and I’m able to read.” - Bill Willingham, creator of Fables
“Zoo City is a story of mysteries unfolding, and it is a story well told. But it’s the world around the story, and the words that guide us through, that make it something more than simply marvellous. With her subtle, intimate descriptions of the roads we walk in this crazy city; with characters so deeply twisty you could lose a giant squid in their nebulous hidey holes, and with turns of phrase that are as likely to conjure up Rudyard Kipling, Brenda Fassie or Credo Mutwa as they are to invoke Japanese anime, Doctor Who or the crack in Johnny Cash’s voice as he sings of his greatest loss, this canny authoress has brought real magic to everyday life in Jozi, in what I’m afraid I really am going to end off by describing as an act of unadulterated literature.” - Matthew du Plessis, Times Live
"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." - Exclus1ves
"Lauren Beukes is an awfully smart writer. In Zoo City her characters ooze attitude, their dialogue is snappy, and her vivid imagery is both original and arresting. What’s more, with an inspired blend of pop-culture savvy and fantasy (just enough, not too much), her depiction of Johannesburg, magical charms and all, feels eerily real... In fact, it feels as incomplete as real life. It’s gritty, it’s tangled and it’s flawed; nothing is polished, nothing perfect. That’s what makes Zoo City so disturbingly, hauntingly, uncompromisingly brilliant." - Jonno Cohen, MiniMonologues
"At times the witty and lyrical prose is sheer magic, the story captivating and the characters exotic, cruel and beautiful while the backdrop of Johannesburg seeths with hidden, lurking dangers around every corner, Zoo City is quite simply captivating." - SciFi & Fantasy Books
"Returning with her second release from Angry Robot, Lauren Beukes stuns with a richly textured venture into a pseudo-fantastical Johannesburg of the future where criminals are magically partnered with animals, and unscrupulous record producers run amok." --SciFiNow
"We all know there is a fine line between genius and madness. So it is with Zoo City ... a story that is remarkable for both its inventiveness and the sharpness of its writing."
- Jason Baki, Kamvision
"A contrast of fragility and extreme imaginative strength, Beukes’s books are going places. She’d better ready herself for one helluva wild ride." - Mandy De Waal, The Daily Maverick
"Beukes has written a book about something deeply important, but she’s willing to stand back and let us figure it out for ourselves." - www.pornokitsch.com
"If you don’t read Zoo City, you’re missing out on one of the best modern books in and outside the fantasy genre." -www.TheRantingDragon.com
"Beukes’s future city is as spiky, distinctive and material a place as any cyberpunkopolis, and quit a bit fresher. The narrative is brisk and well turned, but the great achievement here is tonal: atmospheric, smart and memorable work." -www.locusmag.com
"Ms. Beukes' amazing novel takes the genre to exciting new places, is beautifully written and is a bloody good story." -www.pornokitsch.com, on winning the Red Tentacle Award
"From grimy slums to gang warfare to supernatural horrors, Zoo City is a book of hard edges and nasty surprises. It's also livened up by stabs of sharp, black humour, and the action is unrelenting." - Warpcore SF
"Lauren Beukes brings to Zoo City the observant, cynical eye for the intersection of media, business, and pop culture that animated her debut, Moxyland, and pairs it with a funny, colloquial, and casually poetic first-person narrator and thriller pacing to take urban fantasy to the next level." -www.ideomancer.com
"Zoo City is pure originality ... a book that had me reading it revelling in Beukes' magical way with words." - SF Signal
"Go and read Zoo City and Moxyland by Lauren Beukes – someone took cyberpunk from the toy box, dusted it up and spanked it to shape for the new millennium." -Janos Honkonen, Vornasblogi
"The novel’s greatest triumph is undoubtedly its richly evocative world, at once hostile and compelling, deadly and seductive. It sucks you in and plants your feet firmly on its grimy city pavements, and despite the danger that awaits you around every corner, you can’t help but run to get there, to find the next macabre treasure." -Vianne Venter, Something Wicked
"Beukes does the thing that everyone is always saying writers need to do: Show, don’t tell."
-Brain vs. Book
About the Author
LAUREN BEUKES is a writer, TV scriptwriter and recovering journalist. For the sake of a story, she’s jumped out of planes and into shark-infested waters and hung out with teen vampires, township vigilantes, and AIDS activists among other interesting folk. When she’s not tutoring her baby daughter in practical ways to take over the world, she also writes books, short stories, magazine articles and TV scripts.
Top customer reviews
Stuff it does right: the world is very well-presented, particularly in it's use of magic, which is never heavy handed. This is basically low-level stuff but it's blended seamlessly into the world, no small trick with such an oddball idea -- this is a world full of people running around with animals, for Pete's sake. Yet you end up buying it, more or less, by the end. Beukes' South African setting may have helped here, as the environmental disparities (a shaman in a Dolce and Gabbino vest who keeps his gross magic elixir in an empty two liter Coke bottle, for instance) come across as charming, somehow fitting. This is a ramshackle world generally, built together from flotsam -- you buy it. It's never over-explained, always a trap for fantasy writers but Beukes leaves a lot of what's going on unstated, which keeps the magic genuinely mysterious and powerful when it does appear. The explanations she does offer are done very cleverly, through other "electronic flotsam" -- a précis of a scientific paper, reviews of a documentary, a music article -- which helps set the world even more. Very clever, this.
I also liked the heroine. I confess to generally not liking female PI books: either the stories retain their edge but the women are laughable Mary Sue's/Wonder Women or the leads are believable but the story itself is a pile of mush. Beukes manages to steer between the Scylla and Charibdes here, Zinzi is a believable woman but the story still has a snap to it. One of the main reasons I think is that Beukes was smart enough not to make her a superheroine: Zinzi is clearly the physical inferior at every action sequence, which helps to up the stakes and feels more "real", honestly. (Things get a bit out of hand at the climax, but even there she mainly outthinks, not out fights, her opponents.) Beukes is also not afraid to show us Zinzi's bad sides, as well: she's good at conning people into talking to her but she's also shown to be a conman more generally, bilking a perfectly nice couple out of their life savings.
Stuff that goes wrong: Actually I think the biggest problems here are editorial, not from Beukes per se. If there was ever a book that needed another pass with the editor, it's ZOO CITY. There are sections here that are charmingly written, even quite well done in a way, but add nothing to the story and probably could've been cut (the whole visit to the "rehab" place, probably there mainly because Beukes went to one and wanted to use her research; the chase sequence in the sewer tunnels, which is well-written but just sort of stuck there). Parts of this seem padded. On the other hand, there are sections that could've used a bit more, the climax in particular seems over-rushed and would've benefitted from a beat or two extra.
There's also a couple of unanswered questions in the story that would've benefitted from some authorial explanation, but I blame Beukes editor for this more than Beukes herself, you have editors to pick up on stuff like this. For instance, I'm not sure, right at the beginning, I understand why Zinzi takes the case, there's a jump from "not on your life" to begrudging acceptance that I just didn't get, and would've benefitted from a paragraph or two of exposition. Similarly -- I'll have to be vague because it's the climax -- we learn the bad guy's motive (and it's very cleverly done), I even buy some of the collateral damage on the way to achieving the motive. We're ultimately told, though, that he's a Very Very Very bad guy, and I'm not sure I really follow that, the reason for all the extra stuff. I think there's a hint why in the story, if you're looking for it, but that too could've been spelled out more.
So a little rough here and there, not perfect, but it does a lot of stuff right. The magic and world is a nice break from most typical fantasy fiction, as well, which also helps. Recommended.
Two stars for believable character motivations. Zinzi, the main character, evolves from housekeeper of lost items, living on the fringes of poverty (with all the familiar coping options), to a determined noir detective, bent on righting wrongs. The motivation for the transformation is as murky as the magic in this alternate universe. Is Zinzi compelled to risk her life for the money, a chance for redemption for past (hazy and not fully explained) tragedies, the promise of something like love, or as the ultimate drug infused escape (perhaps even suicidal release from it all)? If the novel helped us see Zinzi gripped by these motivations and showed some cognition of the transformation she endures, the novel would have been very satisfying.
As it is, though, it seems Beukes uses this mixture of magic, redemption, escape, and unforeseen consequences, as a voyeristic journalist. Throughout the novel I felt there was an unseen reporter, rooting for the next unsavory and sadistic act to explode, simply so it could be reported. Kinda like crime scene paparazzi. Not there to understand what happened, but to get the best photo or video of the wreckage because that is what thrills and sells. Tabloid instincts trumped investigative crusader.
I loved the feast and will remember many of the dishes for some time. Beukes’ writing is terrific. But overall the meal wasn’t fully satisfying.