One couldn’t conceive of a world where you would have to carry your past indiscretions around like a scarlet letter. However, Zoo city is The Scarlet Letter with a twist, and far more interesting. Zinzi December is a two-bit criminal, come miscellaneous trinket detector with a sloth as a Zoo. When her current client is murdered she is left without her pay cheque and is offered a job she wouldn’t ordinarily accept.
Zoo City is set in down town Johannesburg with all the grungy elements that comes along with it. It’s both a current, and a look into a possible future of the world. The animalled, as they are called, are the new versions of outcasts. Zinzi’s animal is a sloth that she carries around as a backpack/Jiminy cricket. Along with sloth’s inherent will to do good, he also provides Zinzi with the gift of locating lost things. Her “shavi”, as it is called, leads her to Mrs Rudetsky a recluse looking for her lost trinket. When she finally finds said trinket, Mrs Rudetsky is found dead and all leads point to Zinzi. Maltese and Marabou happen to be on the scene and offer Zinzi a job of locating one half of a teeny bop group. They make Zinzi an offer she can’t refuse and all roads lead to trouble from there.
This book is a refreshing take on scams and schemes with a hint of dark magic. Avid readers are always in search of books that they find hard to put down and this is one of them. All the characters are well-developed and painted into your mind by Lauren Beukes’ creative wording. The book touches on our human nature and our need to shun the different things we do not understand. It makes you question your tolerance and our acceptance. Zinzi’s character gives you that view, and how thick-skinned those we judge need to be. Magnificently researched you are automatically transported into the book effortlessly living out the story with Zinzi.
I’d love to call this book faultless but sadly, I cannot. The book is constructed well, taking you through the motions of the protagonists’ life, but it rushes to its ending like a bad action movie trying to make its point before its time is up. I honestly see no reason why this needed to be done; I doubt writers are restricted to a set amount of pages. So why then is the ending so bad? I like it, I love it, but the open-ended ending not so much (shaking fists raised, urgh why, why, why?). Ok, maybe I’m being a tad dramatic, but I wanted more.
On the upside the book will be adapted into a movie… fingers crossed it might be a sleeper hit like District 9.