book review: zoo city

Lauren Beukes’ sf noir novel Zoo City is set in an alternate 21st century South Africa where magic works and those who kill get marked by an animal companion (kind of like Pullman’s daemons, but they don’t talk and they’re a signifier of antisocial behaviour). I’m not sure it makes much sense as far as worldbuilding goes, but the characters get you right into things so it doesn’t matter much.

Zinzi is our hero who works 419 scams for shady dangerous people and finds lost things, not people. As befits a good noir story she breaks her rule and takes a good-paying missing persons case and everything goes sideways. There’s violence and lying and the sinister machinations of pop music.

The book reminded me of George Alec Effinger’s Marid Audran stories, which I also quite like. The main difference is that what makes it not a straight up crime story is less about technology & politics, instead Zoo City is our world infused with a bit of magic.

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