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~DOWNLOAD ♕ Zoo City ⚆ WHERE NO ONE ELSE DARE VENTURE Zinzi Has A Sloth On Her Back, A Dirty Online Scam Habit And A Talent For Finding Lost Things But When Her Latest Client, A Little Old Lady, Turns Up Dead And The Cops Confiscate Her Lastpaycheck, She S Forced To Take On Her Least Favourite Kind Of Job Missing PersonsThe Award Winning Novel By The Author Of The Shining Girls And The Highly Acclaimed MoxylandLE UNDER Urban Fantasy Gangster Shamen Symbiotic Familiars Teen Star Missing Everything Breaks Wow.Zoo City is one of the original, complicated fantasy books that I ve read this year I m not even sure how to tag it, that s how many elements come into play Urban fantasy Johannesburg is a major city, after all, and the animal angle is clearly unreal Dystopia Almost, but not quite despite the animals, this is a current version of Johannesburg and African politics Mystery noir After all, there s a missing person and an investigator of questionable character Horror A little witchcraft, a little mutilation, but mostly it s only horror in that way that shows us our own hearts, evil enough to cut out Literary fiction It thoughtfully explores the human condition, guilt and identity Mostly, it s just interesting, creative and just a bit uncomfortable Unfortunately, since Goodreads can t decide if the 2010 Terms of Service are the current ones, or the ones that Kara references in the Important Announcements thread, I m going to have to post the rest of my review at places it won t be deleted One of the things I loved the most about Philip Pullman s His Dark Materials series was his rather brilliant twist on the concept of a witch s familiar that in that world, each person s soul manifests as a companion animal that is their other half It s not only because it s a cool idea it also is an interesting reflection of our ongoing weird relationship with nature the connection we feel to the creatures of the earth, though most of us live far removed from it in cities and suburbs And, you know, the idea of a little talking cat following me around is just fun Provided, of course, you get a good animal like a cat, since you can t pick According to the online daemon matcher they had on the Golden Compass movie website before it came out and failed, I would get a spider I would not appreciate that Other animals I would be happy with Penguin Welsh Corgie Red eyed Tree Frog Lauren Beukes Zoo City has a similar conceit, which is why I wanted to read it even though I m not typically drawn to Urban Fantasy as a genre Check it out Set in 2011, in a world that is basically our own, except sometime around the mid Aughts, a strange plague descended upon humanity suddenly, people who commit murder or are even responsible for a death through indirect means find themselves marked for all the world to see by the sudden appearance of their own companion animals I imagine this would make criminal cases really easy to prosecute Can you point out the perpetrator Yes, that s him there, with the Red Panda in his lap They aren t quite the talking creatures of Pullman, but they do seem smarter than the average bear no, really, someone gets a bear , and they do become your devoted friend for life.Other than the whole everyone knows you killed someone and therefore shuns you and you have to live in slums like the titular, crime ridden Zoo City angle, this doesn t sound that bad to me i think a companion animal would be really fun Did I mention they also grant their bearers useful magical powers Hmmm, but then there is this downside where if your animal dies before you do, a black cloud of existential dread or something floats by to drag you directly to hell So, also a negative.So as you can probably tell, this is potentially a pretty dorky premise, but Beukes pulls it off with aplomb thanks to a strong central character, a well chosen setting and creative world building that pieces out an explanation for the funky backstory through occasional non plot chapters consisting of emails, news articles, and even an IMDb page for a documentary on Animalism complete with a nice nod to Pullman If you enjoyed this, you ll like Steering by the Golden Compass Pullman s fantasy in the context of the ontological shift I see what you did there, Beukes Zinzi is a former journalist and junkie who lives in the slums of Zoo City, shunned because of her Sloth which she has because of her Dark Past that is revealed slowly, and I must say the way the animals are doled out in this world seems slightly unfair at times She s deep in debt to her former dealer and scrapes a living drawing in marks for 419 email scams I told you it was just like our world and using her special magical ability finding lost things Zinzi is a fun narrator clearly damaged, a sarcastic smartass hip to pop culture she references lolcats I m going to need a shelf and highly capable on the job Plus her companion animal is a sloth, so you know she s good people Um, except for the murdery past.The plot is ever so slightly incidental, as it mostly exists in order to provide a method to reveal the range of ways in which the phenomenon of Animalism aka Acquired Aposymbiotic Familiarism has changed what is otherwise clearly our world I mean, they have email scams and Britney Spears, so it s gotta be us That s not to say it isn t an interesting mystery Zinzi is roped into tracking down the missing half of a Bieber eqsue pop group not surprisingly, murder, mayhem, and a nefarious record producer are involved For a while, it almost feels like it could be YA, but there s a violent undercurrent that never really goes away Beukes doesn t want you to forget that our likeable heroine has a Sloth friend for a reason, and that it is a very bad reason I may have mentioned that the climax is intense it s not just gory but profoundly sad, and I don t want to tread into spoilers but the unspoken themes that form the backbone of the entire thing, about the burdens carried by people who have done bad things very very bad things, yes but have to learn to go on living in a society that doesn t want them around, are surprisingly affecting for a book with a cartoon sloth on the cover. This is a particularly smooth genre meshing urban fantasy noir SF horror, and if you don t like my description, then go read it and figure out your best fit If you do, however, find that perfect descriptor, be sure to add all the little animas, the familiars that bad people get after murdering someone, and if you let your anima die, you get dragged to hell Or is the novel firmly set in modern day Johannesburg filled with scams, missing persons, and mystery Oh, wait, how about all the mutilations and the sense of upwelling horror No Then why the hell do I get this sense that things have just gone near future high tech Well that s because the book refuses to sit still and be neatly defined Isn t that wonderful Our main character is a real spitfire, that s for certain, and I love reading about good scams as much as anyone, but that s just her favorite hobby and way to make money For everything else and when times get rough, she falls back on a bit of the missing persons racket, and she really knows how to talk a good game She s an excellent social hacker.As for the Urban Fantasy angle, I ll tell you this it s interesting and odd and magical and it works perhaps a bit too strangely for me I like a bit of well defined rules, if only to see those rules get broken or find a way to slip the leash of hell, you know But, alas, it isn t that kind of story.It is, fundamentally, full of elemental horror, which is great because I love horror and I think Ms Beukes does it extremely well This is the third novel that I ve read of hers and all of them are quite a bit different in style, subjects, characters, and plots, save for the interesting parallels of con games and horror But rest assured, all the horror sequences are very, very different from one another, so you will all have a nice treat in store for you for each novel I m very impressed, in general, but I have to admit that I like this one the least between it and Broken Monsters or Moxyland Suffice to say, I ve grown to be a very steadfast fanboy of the author and I m going to be snatching up each of her novels as I can find them, with much pleasure.Thanks goes to Netgalley and the publisher I read this directly after finishing Moxyland and my wild enthusiasm for Lauren Beukes is not abating The setting is present day Johannesburg, but in this alternate reality, a couple of decades ago, something strange started happening Those who were guilty of terrible crimes were suddenly, magically saddled with an animal familiar reminiscent of the burden of the Ancient Mariner s albatross, but, well, alive The animalled are also unable, it seems, to help liking and feeling affection for their animals A further motivation to care for the beasts carefully is that their lives are inextricably bound to that of their familiars They must maintain physical proximity, and if their animal dies or is killed that s it for them as well Gaining an animal also comes with the benefit of certain strange powers Predictably, the animalled are regarded with a complex ambivalence by society one mirroring our current attitude toward thugs They are shunned and feared as the violent dregs of society but there s also the sexy frisson of badassery and scandal attached to their image.Our protagonist, Zinzi, used to be an upper middle class young woman with a promising career in journalism However, bad choices and drugs led to her current situation living in a slum, a boyfriend who s married to someone else, getting blackmailed to work for a criminal scammer due to a debt, and oh yeah, with an animal a sloth She s also gained the power to find lost items, which she uses to make a little extra cash on the side, locating missing items for people.Zinzi doesn t do missing persons but when a couple of mercenary agents who seem like bad news rope her in to a case by offering her enough cash to pay off her overwhelming debt, she breaks her own rules A sleazy record producer s latest teen starlet has gone missing, and he desperately wants her back to record her next album But was the singer kidnapped or did she run away Does anyone really have her best interests at heart The fascinating, vividly gritty setting becomes the backdrop for a non stop, action filled and extremely violent mystery plot Good, good stuff.Many thanks to Mulholland Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read As always, my opinions are solely my own. Lauren Beukes The Shining Girls fascinated me with her style and imagination, I thought it was a flawed gem but it put me on board for Beukeses The next logical book for me from the Beukes bibliography is 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award winner Zoo City.Set in an alternate reality where some people are suddenly paired with an animal as a consequence of something heinous they have done or perhaps think they have done Basically, if you are bearing some major guilt chances are an animal will suddenly show up next to you and you won t be able to stray far from it If this brings to mind familiars concept from Philip Pullman s The Golden Compass His Dark Materials trilogy the author is well aware of it and even mentions the classic YA book in one of the chapters The concept works very differently in the world of Zoo City however, the people are not born with animals, not everybody have them, and the animaled people are blessed with some kind of minor supernatural talent Beukes gives the condition a clever medical sounding name AAF or Acquired Aposymbiotic Familiarism She also keeps the purpose of the animals quite ambiguousBut was the Penguin his Jiminy Cricket or the devil on his shoulder In a recent Reddit AMA a kind of live chat online interview Beukes describes Zoo City asBlack magic noir about a girl with a sloth on her back and the magical ability to find lost thingsa nice and succinct description that saves me writing much of a synopsis The girl in the description is the protagonist Zinzi December a lovely name , a complex anti heroine of sorts Zinzi and her adorable stoat live in a shabby apartment where she ekes out a living as a finder of lost articles and a writer of scam e mails One day she is offered a large sum of money to find a missing pop singer, a job that turns out to be very difficult and dangerous Zoo City is an excellent urban fantasy, a subgenre I rarely read as too many of those are YA vampire romances It is also a murder mystery thriller, and an allegory for the racism and violence still prevailing in Johannesburg The storyline is a little convoluted but not too hard to follow, there is some hair raising scenes of mortal danger and quite graphic violence The ending is a little grim and the major characters storylines are not neatly wrapped up A sequel does not appear to be in the works but it would be very welcomed.I would like to end this review with this quote hi CecilyA collection of movie monsters are posed all along the top of the bookshelf On instinct, I pick up the one that looks like an upside down dustbin with rows of studs down the side As I do, it says Exterminate and I nearly drop it You can always tell how great an author is by the number of Whovian references they make. Before I read this, I would have said there was nothing new you could do with the magical companion animals trope I would have been wrong.I enjoyed this for the concept, for the characters, for the setting I was all set to give it four stars And then the ending happened view spoiler And it s not that it s a tragedy that bothers me I actually appreciate the author s chutzpah in having the twins die, in having the bad guys escape I less appreciate the bad guys over the top characterization as psychopaths, but you take what you can get It s the fact that the protagonist s presence at the climactic scene had no effect, good, bad, or indifferent, on anything that occurred She disables Mark and not only does it turn out he s entirely unnecessary to the ceremony, his compatriots in crime don t even go looking for him She brings Benoit, whose magical power is the opposite of Mark s canceling magic, rather than enhancing it and his presence doesn t disrupt the ceremony at all I guess I wanted to see something change because she was there Have Odi s death be partly her responsibility, have Carmen survive, have Odi not escape the undertow, something Because otherwise, Zinzi s presence in the entire novel is basically a wash She doesn t find Song, she doesn t earn the money to cancel out her debts, she doesn t disrupt the ceremony I guess you can say she has some personal growth, but I didn t see it she falls off the wagon on drugs, on alcohol She s guilty that she got Benoit hurt, but we never see her accept that he s leaving her She s burned even professional bridges that will prevent her from going back to her old life, and she hasn t built any new ones.I like bleakness But this is a little bleak, even for me.And even then, I d be okay with it, if I felt the novel were cast as a tragedy But it isn t The final scene has a positively cheery tone And that just causes too much cognitive dissonance for me hide spoiler I loved it I was over the moon when Zoo City was chosen to be one of the SciFi and Fantasy Book Club reads for November A book set in a version of my home city with an interesting premise and great reviews Yes please In my excitement I emailed Lauren Beukes and asked if she d do a QA with our group and she said yes As you can imagine I was bouncing off walls It occurred to me mid bounce that this would be an awesome opportunity for Sod you may know him as Murphy to rear his ugly head and twist my mind into not liking Zoo City Fortunately not even Sod and his silly Law could manage it The thing I loved most about this novel was how well Lauren captured Johannesburg South Africa is a very difficult country to explain which I learnt for the first time when I lived in the US during my masters Lauren explains the strange juxtaposition of wealthy suburbia with high walls topped in electric fences patrolled by security companies next to dilapidating buildings with inconsistent electricity and water next to tin roof shacks with no amenities save some shelter from the elements Most portrayals of my home city irritate me because they miss the flavour of the city, the energy, the vibe Zoo City really doesn t It may not always put Joburg in a beautiful light, but it felt very authentic to this Jozi girl which was really amazing The world building is stunning It isn t done in halting bit and pieces, but flows naturally around the story I found myself completely drawn in from the very start and it only got better from there You learn about the animalled as you read, how it happens and why, and how the process changes your life Zinzi is ever so real I wouldn t call her a strong female character although I m sure others have She s clever and resourceful, but she has flaws and a past and issues She has some brilliant coping techniques, in particular the counting trick, that must make her appear far hardcore than she is I loved her even when I hated her, but than that I loved having the opportunity to hate her She did some really awful things and I hated her for it, but that s life in the jungle. I hate it when I read a book that s beautifully written, but has a clumsy plot I was seduced by the writing while I was reading it, and it wasn t until after I finished that I started realizing how many problems I had with it In this alternate history SF world, people s guilt over their mistakes or crimes manifests as animals that are emotionally or psychically attached to them, sort of like having an albatross hung around your neck, except living and not so corpsey This was interesting to me, since becoming a Zoo is all about feeling guilt and not about whether you re really culpable of whatever you feel guilty about Zinzi gained her Sloth because her brother died over something she did, which makes sense her whole background makes sense, even But she went to prison for it, convicted either of murder or manslaughter, and that doesn t fit at all with her memories of the event It bugged me that this was never explained, because it made her prison time an important part of how she s treated in the book seem irrational.Mostly I felt like I wasn t getting the right kind of clues about where the story was going The book starts with one of Zinzi s clients she specializes in finding lost things being gruesomely murdered, and because the crime scene is described in such detail, and Zinzi herself is temporarily suspected of doing it, it seems like finding the murderer, or finding out why the woman was killed, is what the plot will be about But it isn t The story immediately veers away into a missing persons investigation, and then that s derailed by a return to the murder, which is important after all But the murder thing is just a distraction from the missing person story, which is still the important one, except that it s really a cover for something else The whole plot felt like it was there to give the beautiful writing a framework to hang on.And boy, is this beautiful Beukes is amazing at describing places and characterizing people Even when I didn t like her characters, and even when I thought their motivations were unrealistic, I was still impressed by how easy it was to envision everything that was going on One of the most elegant and horrifying moments is when Zinzi and her supplier employer loan shark pull an email scam on a sweet, generous couple Zinzi s job is normally to write the emails, but if a potential victim insists on meeting the orphan rape victim lost tribal princess, she has to play that role in person It was sickening and infuriating not only for what it was, but because Beukes did an amazing job in showing how easy it was for Zinzi and her boss to take advantage of innocents.Once again I m not sure how to rate a book like this I know I gave it way credit, and stuck with it to the end, because I m a sucker for really good writing But that s the same as saying I didn t like the plot So I d give it 2.5 stars if I could, but I ll mark it up rather than down. Lots of innovation in this melding of noir detective, cyberpunk, and urban fantasy genres She doesn t go overboard with any one of this triad It was a fun ride mixed with a lot of disturbing elements Having a likeable female hero helped me accommodate the widespread despair in the contemporary Johannesburg setting But I am led to render a 3.5 star rating because of personal displeasure with the shocking and implausible d nouement to the tale But then maybe horror is the 4th genre in the blend, which is not such a draw for me.The story is set in South Africa in the approximate present, with technology and the local and global social structures recognizably current What is different is the emergence of a class of people who are Aposymbiont with an animal zoo people in slang Somewhat similar to the people in Pullman s series that began with The Golden Compass , these individuals have an emotional dependence and telepathic relationship with a specific animal For our hero, black thirty something Zinzi December, her critter is a sloth that for her boyfriend Benoit is a mongoose These folks are downtrodden, tend to live in slums Zoo City , and, though protected by civil rights laws, they are subject to much discrimination and tend to suffer stigma as a consequence On the plus side, each has a special semi magical talent For Zinzi, her power lies in getting mental pictures of things that people have lost, a skill she harnesses to make a living At first, the premise for the zoo people sounds silly But having a close animal buddy wasn t that hard to put under my wing And the first person perspective employed by Beukes drew me quickly into Zinzi s case, which is finding a missing ring in the sewer system The magical element for her character is easy to take, not much than psionic skills claimed by many in the real world When her elderly client turns up murdered, her financial straits force her to take on a less preferred type of case, that of a missing person A wealthy, reclusive music producer contracts her to find a missing teen Afro pop star Using traditional gumshoe methods, she works up the usual range of subjects posing as a journalist, giving us a tour of the music scene and the lifestyles of the haves and have nots When dangers and threats emerge from rocks she turns over, she uses her wits to survive than the overused kickass toughness The sloth helps watch her back in some cases, but largely is along for the ride The detective work in an exotic city is satisfying As with typical noir heroes, Zinzi has a good heart, but is jaded and compromised from past mistakes The whole bit about how and why she, and others, are cursed with the animal symbiosis is the elephant in the room From the beginning, all we know is that for her it has something to do with her recovery from addiction, which feels like some kind of Faustian bargain The negative attitudes that the larger society places on the zoo people feels like some kind of metaphor for the aftermath of apartheid In other ways, the burden of the animal link has religious overtones, like a Christian cross to bear for sins committed, some kind of voodoo punishment, or a twist on Hindu reincarnation There is meat in the rest of the book for the reader to explore and dwell on these possibilities Perhaps if I could digest a little better the shocking climax in the light of these questions, I would see a way to up my rating I am impressed enough to read the other book by this talented writer, her debut dystopic novel Moxyland.