Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Lauren Beukes’s new novel Zoo City is a pacey, hard-edged affair that is hard to put down once it’s sunk its claws into you.
When Zinzi December, the story’s tough-cookie heroine with a tragic past, a special gift for retrieving lost things and a sloth on her back, reluctantly agrees to search for the latest human asset of music-mogul-on-the-come-back-trail Odi Huron, she has no idea what she is getting herself into.
Beukes shows us a schizophrenic Johannesburg/Joburg/Jozi at its most familiar and like we’ve never seen it before as Zinzi tears through the city’s grimey underbelly from decrepit Hillbrow apartment slums to “gated communities fortified like private citadels” and the “rotten heart of leafy suburbia”.
Beukes/Zinzi constantly negotiates and transcends the blurred boundary between gritty reality and the fantastic all the way to the story’s cataclysmic and rather freaky climax.
Zoo City is a dark novel with many a silver lining. It’s inhabited by imaginary alligators as well as more lethal reptiles, ruthless opportunists, gullible Americans, refugee lovers and many other vivid characters, both wicked and likeable.
This is intelligent and witty urban writing for the 21st century: unashamedly South African yet thoroughly metropolitan; wildly entertaining, yet richly nuanced.
Anyone who was worried about Beukes’s ability to live up to the wide acclaim and excitement raised by her debut novel Moxyland can rest assured. This is even better. Zoo City reaffirms Beukes as one of South Africa’s most imaginative new literary voices.
Andreas Späth, Idasa
This review first appeared on Women24.com here.
Zoo City is available at Lobby Books for R125.