Thursday, 22 September 2011

Zoo City: Review

I am officially an entertainment journalist for Tuks' varsity paper, the Perdeby. For my application, I had to do a movie, book or film review. I am so super excited about this new venture and the chance to write about things that I really really enjoy. As per the request of a certain special friend who lives far away (ok, not that far but Cape Town is far enough), here's what I wrote.

Zinzi December is former junkie who lives in a dingy little flat in the heart of Hillbrow’s squalor. She makes a living by conning the unsuspecting through internet scams and has a knack for finding lost items. Zinzi is also a murderer. The sloth on her back, her animal familiar, is a reminder of her crooked past and the mistakes she has made. It is against this backdrop that Zinzi finds herself helping music producer, Odi Huron, to locate the missing half of a popular teenage singing duo. 

With an unconventional heroine like Zinzi, it’s no surprise that Zoo City has caused quite a buzz in the literary world. Local author, Lauren Beukes, recently won the Arthur C. Clarke award, which is equivalent to the Oscars in the sci-fi world. Beukes combines her wild imagination with a witty narrative, to transport the reader to an alternate version of Johannesburg. It’s an eerie Jozi where criminals are identified by the animals that follow them, where muti is rife and crime and poverty are plentiful. Perhaps what makes Zoo City so captivating is that it is set in a Joburg that, although different, is not far off from the one we know now. Beukes uses the novel to mirror reality from a different perspective and to comment on topical political and social issues. 

Zoo City is one of those books that you’ll find very hard to separate with once you start reading it. Suspense absorbs you with every unexpected twist in the tail and you feel a strange sense of comfort as you engage in a supernatural world filled with tik, taxis, moegoes, chiskoppe and spaza shops. Beukes’ powerful blend of magical realism makes it very difficult, or rather impossible, to fault her writing. Zoo City is Beukes’ second novel after Moxyland, her highly-acclaimed debut novel. Beukes has followed in the footsteps of Neill Blomkamp’s film, District 9, when it comes to putting South African science fiction on the map. I suspect that Zoo City will have a cult-like following sooner or later. Once you’ve read the book, there’s no questioning why. Orwell and Adams better make some room for Lauren Beukes. Her world-class writing represents the future of South African literature while proving that local really is lekker.