Zoo City is by Lauren Beukes, published in 2010; she’s written another since then and I’ll make a point of reading it; which should be indicative.

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

[Background: I was looking at the bookshelf screens on my tablet and realized I’ve read quite a few recently without sharing anything, even though while none of them have been life-changing, a few are well worth the price of an e-book. This is bad behavior in a blogger, so I’ll try to run a few short reviews and get caught up.]

This book is seriously nasty, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Poor people living hard-ass lives in surprising spaces, in and out of crime, with considerable sex & drugs & rock & roll, not to mention appalling violence. What’s not to like?

Well, some of the plot dots aren’t fully connected, like exactly what the deal is with the convicts’ animals, and if that bothers you, well, then this novel will too. And a few times my suspension of disbelief in this particular alternative future was screaming for mercy. Also it’s maybe a little longer than it really needs to be.

But hey, the characters are charmingly ambiguous and some aspects of this future are pretty fascinating, and the story moves right along. The horror gets visceral but goes by so fast that you find yourself looking over your figurative shoulder as you flip through the pages. Well except for the closing climax, which I think will make anyone gasp and blench a little.

Also, if you’re South African or otherwise know Johannesburg, you’ve probably already read this, but if not really consider it. I’ve never been there but it drips with a sense of the place, which given the quality of the writing and the fact that Ms Beukes is South African, seems likely to be genuine.

Also, anyone who’s lived on the Net will be struck by the portrayal of our heroine’s side-job as a 419-scam operative, and a very plausible walk-through of what the successful closing of a 419 might just be like. It must happen often enough, or they wouldn’t be doing it.

Anyhow, it’s fun, it moves right along, and it’s not really like anything else I’ve ever read. So I suspect a lot of you would like it.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Ferg (Apr 26 2013, at 02:00)

I like a lot of your recommendations (the books that is) and I have bought the Kindle version of at least 4 you've made..

However, since your links are to the US store you do not get any of the Amazon Associates cash! If you could be bothered (free books are free books and the writers still get their take) and put in the UK link I'm sure you'd get a bit more.

(ulterior motive is I get a direct clickable link rather than having to search in the UK store).


From: Mike (Apr 26 2013, at 03:00)

The animals thing is very reminiscent of Philip Pullman's daemons - the author explicitly lampshades this at one point.

Plotting could have been a lot tighter, but as you say, a great sense of place and a unique spin on the noir genre.


From: pjz (Apr 26 2013, at 04:04)

I likrd it too.. did you pick it up as part of the humble book bundle?


From: Mike P (Apr 26 2013, at 06:39)

Yeah, interesting book - I got it though the Humble eBook bundle.

Wondering if you've read Hugh Howey's Silo Saga yet? Definitely recommended and you can get the first 5 ebooks (Wool) for < $4.


From: Paul Morriss (Apr 26 2013, at 06:44)

I did. Interesting that at the start it says "file under urban", because it's hard to classify.


From: Tim (Apr 26 2013, at 08:08)

Hey @Ferg - I don’t actually get money from Amazon due to being in Canada (sob) but I do get gift certs so the result is that my books are effectively free.


From: Doug K (Apr 26 2013, at 09:13)

read this after Charlie Stross recommended Moxyland, another of Lauren's books.

I can confirm the sense of Johannesburg is accurate.. it made me a little queasy in fact, the reality is nearly as gruesome as the book. As a teenager I used to hang out in Hillbrow, it was still exciting then as racial segregation started to break down. Today I would not risk my life by visiting, though it's a question whether it is really more dangerous or I'm just old and timid.. maybe both.


author · Dad
colophon · rights

April 25, 2013
· Arts (11 fragments)
· · Books (123 more)

By .

The opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
on the author page.

I’m on Mastodon!