katewrites: (mr chang's neighborhood)
Zoo City is set in an alternate universe where after a "zoo plague" people who commit murder (or, as is implied, feel the guilt for a murder) are gifted with an animal. That animal gives them special powers.

Zinzi December is gifted with the ability to find lost things. She doesn't find people or weapons at the start of the story. However when a client is killed and she's confronted with the enormity of her debt to the criminal underworld, she takes on a missing persons case.

This is essentially a noir story set in an incredibly rich, detailed and respectful South Africa, told from the perspective of an ex-junkie, ex-reporter, current-spam writer. It's incredible how familiar tropes are new and exciting.

One of my least favorite tropes in noir detective novels is the self-destructive attitudes. They drink, they destroy relationships around them, they're violent and mouth off to police. My favorite part of Zoo City was how self-aware Zinzi is. She spends the whole book carefully aware of herself - as both an ex-junkie and as a human being.

Even when she does bad things (like playing an active part in Nigerian money scams) she's aware of herself and aware that part of her likes it.

I also can't explain how much I love reading a novel where Africa isn't all one huge country, isn't the exotic, isn't a collated amount of facts from Hollywood movies about Africa.

As a side note, the digital version of this book was really well put together. (And I was surprised to find fanfic from her first novel, Moxyland, in the back!)

As an additional side note, I at first classified this as "science fiction" before reading that it was categorized as fantasy.

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katewrites

February 2016

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