Thursday, 9 January 2014

Zoo City - #48

Image sourced from here
I came back to J-berg. I had to, after the State of Symmetry disaster. I was trying to work out what other book I could read for South Africa and this one fell on my lap. I am so glad it did.

This is like an alternate modern day book. It's set now, everything is similar and familiar. Well, that is, besides the familiars. We would call them familiars but in Africa they are termed mashavi. These are animals that appear one day to certain people, and attach themselves to them. To their "soul" if you like. What kind of animal? Whatever you get stuck with. Zinzi has Sloth. And now they are inseparable.

Who does this happen to? It seems that anyone who does something particularly horrible becomes a mashavi. I am not sure exactly who bad it has to be, the sliding scale is not quite talked about, but you have to have done something pretty bad. All people who are animaled are therefore considered as criminals, and are shunned by society. A lot of them live in an area together, a slum really, called Zoo City. As that is the un-pc name for them. Zoos.

Along with the animal, comes... well... for a lack of a better term, a magic power, or ability. Zinzi and Sloth can find lost things. She looks at people and can see the things they have lost and can follow the trails and find them. Pretty useful. And she in her Former Life used to be a journo. Pretty good combo. Pity everyone looks at you like you're a criminal all the time. But she advertises her services as a finder of lost things, and as people want certain things found, she makes a bit of money.

It is through this she is hired by the top music guy in South Africa to find one of his "next big things" who has run off before her album launch. This throws Zinzi into a whole new world of interesting. Throw in her contract to run email scams - you know the "I'm an African princess dying of cancer and have $20 million dollars and can only give it to you as you are a trustworthy person and I have no one else, but first I need your $2 million so I can escape my terrible oppressive country and die in freedom." emails - to a gang, and the book gets interesting.

That was a long intro... What I loved about this book wasn't the main story line. The music industry thing. I loved the end of it, but not the story. I LOVED the whole animaled lore. It was brilliant. And the aside chapters that are written (turns out by some of the author's friends) in different mediums to explain whats going on. The world is amazing.

Again the sense of place is great. You could really get in to where Zinzi was and what she was doing. I will throw in, as I am on holidays, I could spend hours reading in a comfy chair with a chicken, unlike the few minutes stolen here and there in my real life. But I still found it so easy to get swept along in the place and the story. I need to check out more of her writing.

In a country that has had a problem with an "us" and "them" in the past it was interesting looking at this idea again but from an non-racial premise. I think it was pretty spot on, we all default to shun the unfamiliar and the different. We shouldn't and that's what should make us different from animals, but we're a bit crap at it. It also was a really interesting idea to look at the problem of refugees from all of Africa's wars and conflicts, and how that makes normal people forced into horrible situations scarred, not just on their person and psyche, but can leave an another "scar" (animal) but it may not be their fault... It's interesting...

I say read it. We lose a star as I was getting a little bored halfway through. I couldn't see where it was heading. If this is you too, stick with it, it's only 350pp! It's really different and I can't wait to read more of her work.

And so ends the alphabet! I started Anil's Ghost on the 16 Jan 2013. I finished this on the 4 Jan 2014. I missed our cut off in YLTO, but still within 12 months for me. Thanks for reading these along with me. And this year, the challenge is Chunksters (over 500p books) so looking forward to knocking off some huge reads. Hope you stick around with me :)

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