Zinzi December has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit, and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job: missing persons.
©2011 Lauren Beukes (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
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"Urban Fantasy That Does Flinch"
Fans of China Mieville and William Gibson take note: Lauren Buekes??? ???Zoo City??? is every bit gritty noir as it is urban fantasy, and it shoots along like bullets through a warm night sky.
Which means, this story is not a story for the faint of heart. It culminates in one of the roughest blood baths I???ve ever listened to. The worldbuilding is everything you???d want it to be --particularly the ghettoization of the Zoos -- and Beukes turns a phrase better than most and writes broken characters with heart. Her Zinzi is an antihero who despite all her flaws and failings, somehow manages to make us care about her. That said, the ending fell a bit short for me ??? not so much a payoff of counterfeit bills, but more like a stage magician who closes out her stunning show with a rabbit trick. It???s not bad, and there's resolution, but it left me wishing for something different.
I can???t comment too much on the authenticity of Justine Eyre???s accent, but she did an impressive job reading this one ??? from differentiating between the characters, the internal dialogue of Zinzi, and all-in-all carrying this story.
If you ever wondered what might have happened if James Ellroy was raised in Johannesburg by a witch who moonlighted writing 419 scam emails on the side, this is your ticket. All in all, well worth the listen, and I???m eager to see where Beukes takes us next.
"Appalling narration spoiled a so-so book"
Zoo City floats your boat or it doesn't. The essential idea of emotional baggage being carried around in the form of an animal as well as conveying a special sensitivity or power to the damaged person is interesting. The characterisation is light. The descriptions of South Africa are perhaps less remarkabe if you live in Johannesburg - as I do. Personally I found the end too neat and convenient and the final redemption unconvincingly complete.
I had a much bigger problem with the narration. It was shocking! The accents were inconsistent and poor. Like listening to an Austrailian actor doing half a dozen accents he has heard for an hour each, all you hear is ham Austrailian. Nobody speaks like that. As a consequence of having a non South African reader, words were seriously mispronounced - in three languages! Slang words especially lose their impact and emotion when said incorrectly. There were five or six moments when I almost stopped listening to this audiobook because listening to it being read so badly detracted from the writing.
If this is your genre and you are intersted in Zoo City, I recommend reading it.
"Every bit as good as it's billed."
With a cover blurb from William Gibson ("Very, *very*good!") and an Arthur C. Clarke Award, a World Fantasy Award nomination, and other glowing recommendations behind it (Jeff VanderMeer's review in the NY Times for example) I had very high expectations for Beukes's second novel. It's every bit as "phantasmagorical" and wonderful as billed, with a delicious noir-ish plot set atop a sea of bizarre characters in a transfigured modern world. In Zinzi December's Joburg lies the slum of "Zoo City", populated by the Animaled, people whose dark deeds have saddled them with faimilars -- in Zinzi's case, a sloth. Building up from a brief stage setting (Zinzi the drug-debted 419-scammer, Benoit her mongoosed boyfriend, some missing items, some not-so-missing but quite dead persons) and dropping Zinzi into a missing persons case of her own, tracking down the female half of a twin boy-girl Afro-pop duo for the duo's megalomaniacal producer. There's African tribal magic; there's gunplay; there's a brilliant imagination at work behind it all. It's beyond a doubt worth the (very low) price and (fairly short) time investment and I highly recommend it. There are a few narration quirks here and there -- Justine Eyre does a better job than many who have attempted mainline narration in their non-native accents, but from time to time some phrases slip ever so slightly out of accent. Still, all in all, a wonderful audiobook.
"Great story, doesn't work well as audiobook."
This is a traditional crime mystery, but placed in a unique setting, in a world of unusual magic where people carry their guilt from past bad acts around as animal familiars (slightly reminiscent of Golden Compass.) it's a gritty story with a very flawed heroine. The prose is marvelous.
I started listening to this as an audiobook, and soon decided to read the e-book version instead. Part of the problem is there are sections of the book that are format sensitive, such as e-mails, instant messaging chats, scientific reports and other inserts. These just don't read very well, and that's not the fault of the narrator but just a mismatch of the material to the audiobook media.
The pros also has a lot of unfamiliar terms, slang, and names of people, places and things not familiar to American audiences. combined with the thick accents the narrator uses to add characterization, this often made the text harder to understand.
I was just much happier using the text version.
"Worst South African Accent Ever"
I was a bit underwhelmed by Zoo City. I thought the general Sci-fi concept could have been explored in some other context than a loose detective story. There are moments of really fresh brilliance here but overall I thought it was rather plain. Could it be that as a South African living in Johannesburg the imagery Lauren evokes is too mundane for me?
Following on that point, the narration was offensive to the point of distraction. Could it really have been that difficult to find a legitemate South African narrator. Really, there's way too much slang and African language to
I searched out this book because it topped a few lists for some of the best fiction in 2011. I think the performance ruined it for me. The narrator actually made me angry! Badly rendered accent that simply detracts.
Sad thing is? I can't remember a thing about the writing...
"I could not even get past the first 3 chapters."
I am honestly not sure who would really be able to follow the reader in this book. This book honestly taught me the value of samples, they are there, so use them!
"Unique and deserving of a sequel"
4.5 stars. Wow. That was entirely different! An exciting, insightful, strange, gritty, and unexpected ride. Calling this book an urban fantasy and crime noir only scratches the surface. The story takes place in Joburg, South Africa, in the early 2000s, with one major twist. A worldwide phenomenon has occurred -- people who do things that make them feel extreme guilt (usually murders, rapes, and the like) are afflicted with Acquired Aposymbiotic Familiarism. Sufferers with AAF, or colloquially the "animalled" or "Zoos", find that an animal has appeared (bear, sloth, mongoose, Maltese, scorpion, butterfly . . . you get the idea) out of thin air as something of a familiar, and with their appearance the animalled develops some form of special ability. The animalled cannot be separated by too much distance from their animals or else risk paranoia and increasing discomfort, and if their animal dies, the Undertow comes for them -- some sort of dark malevolent force. The story's protagonist is Zinzi December, whose familiar is a sloth and who has the special ability of being able to find lost things. Beukes has written an absolutely fantastic book, weaving sharp dialog and social commentary with action. Since most of the animalled have committed some sort of terrible crime, there is discrimination against the Zoos (different countries have different norms), including housing discrimination. The idea of two classes is especially interesting as it is set in South Africa. Beukes reveals enough to make the world fully realized and interesting, but also leaves plenty of gray areas (as in the source of AAP is unknown, many theories abound, and people are divided over whether the special gifts are magic or have some rational basis). A unique book and highly recommended.
"Sci fi south african accent story. DIFFERENT"
People that commit murder get saddle with a aminal that holds their soul and sometime mystical powers. The accents made it difficult to understand some of the story but, it was a fun different type of story. NOT a shifter story. A cool who done it. Worth a credit??? eh.. maybe.. Was not horrible.. ok
I liked the flow,the pace, the energy. You can't wait to know what happens next, but you are excited to learn about the past too.
The twins. I can't say why, it might give away spoilers.
The accents and the cultural differences that I would have missed had I read it instead. On some occasions I wasn't sure what she was talking about. But I'm from central white bread America, so that's probably a big part of it.
Oh yes. I have an hour long commute and even then I would sit and let the page or chapter wind down before getting out of the car.
The author finishes the story and there is a suggestion of a follow up, please let there be!!!!
"Neil Gaiman with sex, drugs and swearing."
Great world, very well written with believable characters. wasn't too keen on the author to begin with but she grew on me. Definitely worth a listen if you're a Neil Gaiman fan.
"Make it stop!"
Oh my giddy aunt, who in their infinite wisdom, chose the narrator for this fine novel. I have never wanted someone to shut up quite as much. I love Ms. Beukes' writing but the reader ruined this experience for me.
I had heard a lot of good things about this book. Awards had been numerous? But I was bored. The basic premise was promising, with the "daemons" representing sins but it was so wasted and descended into a very basic, though dull, thriller /detective story. i could understand if it was the first in a trilogy but I felt as if it didn't really go anywhere.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Find something better
I would definitely not recommend this book to anyone else. Look elsewhere before spending your precious credits.
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