In Zoo City, it’s impolite to ask.

Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes

The Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction Literature is one of the very few literary prizes I pay any attention to. In part that’s because I don’t read enough science fiction to otherwise be on top of what’s coming out, but it’s also because it’s a well curated prize that really does tend to catch much of what’s most exciting in the field.

Lauren Beukes’ second novel, Zoo City, won the prize back in 2011. That caused some controversy, with many arguing that it wasn’t science fiction at all but rather a fantasy novel which shouldn’t even have been shortlisted (hardcore genre fans can get very bullish about defending genre boundaries). For me the better view is that the boundaries aren’t the point. The point is that the Clarke Award did its job, by finding a bloody good book and shouting to the world about it.

Zoo-City-SA-cover-final

Zoo City is the Johannesburg ghetto where the “animalled” live. The animalled are people who carry the guilt of another human being’s death in an unusually literal way, manifested in the form of animals which they must keep near them at all times. Zinzi December, the protagonist, used to be a Johannesburg lifestyle journalist until she fell into addiction and got her brother killed. Now she has a sloth which goes with her wherever she goes – a living reminder of her sense of responsibility for her brother’s death.

The animalled are stigmatised. In China, the novel mentions at one point in passing, they’re executed on the assumption that whatever they did to end up with an animal must necessarily be a crime worthy of execution. They’re outcasts, and since few people want to employ a presumed killer who is accompanied everywhere by some bizarre creature (examples in the book include a sparrow, a bear, a mongoose, a vulture and much more) they can’t get regular employment.

Other than the presence of the animalled the world of Zoo City is our world. People started being animalled in the 1980s, the first being an Afghan warlord who manifested a penguin which he promptly issued with a custom-made bullet-proof vest. The phenomenon then quickly spread worldwide (the timeline is similar to the spread of Aids in real life). Some seek explanations in religion, others by reference to dodgy sounding quantum physics, but nobody really knows and from the point of view of the animalled it doesn’t really matter.

Being apart from your animal causes profound psychic stress. If your animal dies, you do too (and in a particularly eerie fashion). The only upside, and it’s not much of one, is that each animalled person gains a small magical power.

Zinzi December’s magical gift is the ability to find lost possessions. That’s a talent you can charge people for, that and her writing ability which makes her particularly good at crafting email scams to lure in unsuspecting first world retirees. The emails apparently come from:

…an old lady with a flooded mansion, desperate to sell her priceless antiques cheap-cheap. A Chechnyan refugee fleeing the latest Russian pogroms with her family’s diamonds in tow. A Somali pirate who has found Jesus and wants to trade in his rocket launcher and ransom millions for absolution” and to make some money while they do so.

What each of them has in common is the need to get a large amount of money out of South Africa, the promise of rich rewards for the kindly stranger who helps with that, and some unfortunate up-front administrative fees that can’t be paid from in-country…

We’re in noir territory then, with Zinzi a down at heels and distinctly morally ambiguous PI. Soon a pair of hired thugs (with poodle and vulture in tow) are pressuring Zinzi to take on a job for a reclusive music producer who’s lost one half of his latest boy-girl pop sensation. Zinzi doesn’t do missing people, but when the money’s right how hard can it be to find one lost teenager? Besides, there are some people it’s very hard to say no to.

The cover for my copy of Zoo City comes with a William Gibson quote, which makes sense because Beukes has a lot in common with Gibson. Neither has any real interest in the how of their world, whether the animalled or Gibson’s Cyberspace could actually happen. What each focuses on instead is the experience, the personal and social impact of change.

Beukes’ first novel, Moxyland (which I reviewed here), was outright cyberpunk in the classic Gibsonian mould. Here she’s writing what could be termed urban fantasy, but with the same outlook. Modern Africa is a mix of the high tech and traditional beliefs (the same could be said of modern Singapore, modern Britain). The animals and the magical gifts they bring allow her to explore the world of muti, African folk beliefs which continue in a world of email scams and disposable mobile phones.

Nyangas and sangomas and faith healers with varying degrees of skill or talent, broadcasting their services on posters stuck up on telephone poles and walls. Some of them are charlatans and shysters, advertising cures for anything from money woes to love-sickness and Aids with muti made from crushed lizard balls and aspirin. Guess which ingredient does all the hard work?

To South Africans the animals are another form of muti, as are the abilities they give their humans. December’s view of the world is a modern South African view, influenced in part by animist tradition surviving into a Christian and increasingly secular age. In truth she doesn’t particularly understand how magic works, but then she probably doesn’t understand how her car works either (since car control systems went largely electronic, few people do).

Object muti is easy, particularly when it’s based on a simple binary. Locked or unlocked. Lost or found. Objects want to have a purpose. They’re happy to be told what to do. People less so. [...] Most magic is more abstract. Capricious. It has a tendency to backfire. And the big stuff they promise, the Aids cures, bigger penises or death spells, are all placebo and nocebo, blessings and curses conjured up in your head. Not unlike glossy magazines, which also promise a better sex life, a better job, a better you. Trust me, I used to write those articles. And just look at me now.

The worldbuilding here is done to an extent by stealth - characters don’t spend time explaining their everyday world to each other (a common fault in much other SF). The result is that you pick up the details as you go along, and Beukes is good enough at her craft to ensure this doesn’t become confusing.

Beukes’ world convinces on its terms then, but that isn’t of itself enough to make a good novel. For me, where Beukes’ fiction really shines is her evocation of contemporary urban South Africa. She’s tremendous at capturing noise, smells, the clash of colours and the sheer energy and chaos of it.

Everything takes on a muted quality fifteen floors up. The traffic is reduced to a flow and stutter, the car horns like the calls of mechanical ducks. The skyline is in crisp focus, the city graded in rusts and coppers by the sinking sun that has streaked the wispy clouds the colour of blood. It’s the dust in the air that makes the Highveld sunsets so spectacular, the fine yellow mineral deposits kicked up from the mine dumps, the carbon-dioxide choke of the traffic. Who says bad things can’t be beautiful?

Though this next quote reminded me more of when I used to live in Earl’s Court, showing perhaps that in some ways major cities are the same the world over.

I catch a taxi into Auckland Park with the late-night cleaners, the nurses and the restaurant dish-washers: the invisible tribe of behind-the-scenes. I get off after Media Park and walk up to 7th Street with its scramble of restaurants, bars and Internet cafés. Outside the Mozambican deli-cum-Internet café, a hawker tries to sell me a star lantern made of wire and paper and, when I decline, offers me marijuana instead.

Beukes also often shows a nice turn of phrase. I liked an email-scam mark having his good sense overwhelmed by the smell of money which “bellows like a vuvuzela, drowning out the whisper of doubt.” Similarly I enjoyed a teenaged boy “pouting like he ordered strippers for his birthday and got clowns instead”, and in terms of imagery when a fatally wounded man “screams like a slaughterhouse pig in a Peta video” it’s vivid and unpleasantly easy to imagine.

What makes Zoo City such an enjoyable read then isn’t the concept itself, clever (and capable of so many allegorical readings) as it is. It’s the writing, the noirish characters, and perhaps most of all that remarkable sense of place. I’ve not read most of the novels Zoo City was up against in 2011, so I can’t say whether it deserved to beat them or not. I’m not at all surprised though that it got shortlisted, because if science fiction (or fantasy if you prefer) was producing many books like this back in 2011 it must have been an exceptionally good year.

Zoo City has been widely reviewed. There’s an excellent (and spoiler free) example at David H’s blog, here (I only just realised David’s blog wasn’t on my blogroll, so I’ve promptly corrected that) and he links in turn to fine reviews from John Clute and Niall Harrison each of which is definitely worth reading. I was happier with the ending than David was as for me the book always had that crime heritage overlapping with the SF and I was therefore expecting a fairly plot-driven ending.

Postscript: Some issues with the Kindle edition

Finally, a note of caution for those who don’t have this and might be thinking of picking it up. Beukes uses different fonts in places, to indicate emails or internet chats, and all that inevitably gets lost in the kindle version. Much worse though the kindle version, in the UK at least, has some truly appalling formatting errors which were so frequent and so bad that they started to genuinely spoil the book for me.

Since I knew the author was on twitter I dropped her a line there asking if there was some way to get the ebook version fixed (the paperback doesn’t have these problems). She put me in touch with her publishers, who asked me to email through the details of the problems I’d found (since they apparently weren’t in all e-editions in all countries).

The publishers offered to send me a cleaned up version, but before they could Lauren Beukes herself very kindly emailed me a word version of the book which was entirely error free (and which was apparently a later version of the book, fixing a plot problem I’d already read past without noticing that her French translator had picked up).

I really can’t praise enough Lauren Beukes’ and her publishers’ response to the problem I had. Given though the formatting issues with the ebook, and the fact that even once fixed you’ll still lose the font choices Beukes makes, this is one you should definitely read in physical copy if at all possible.

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41 Comments

Filed under Beukes, Lauren, Science Fiction, South African Literature

41 responses to “In Zoo City, it’s impolite to ask.

  1. I’m interested in this. So, and let me get this straight, there are ‘animalled’ people all over the world but the story is focused in J-berg?

    For some reason, I thought of the way young teens in America are required to carry around an egg or a doll 24-7 which is supposed to simulate the care of a baby. This is part of a teen-pregnancy programme. I’ve never seen the point of it as an egg or a doll can’t possibly simulate the care of a child since you can effectively neglect or ignore both which is NOT supposed to be the purpose of the programme.

    But I digress. Sounds fantastic, Max. Thanks

  2. Precisely so. She’s a South African writer, so her books are based there. The phenomenon in the book is a global one, the particular story local.

    I’ve read some interesting thoughts on how the animals relate to the people. Niall in his review (linked to from David’s) suggests that they’re a dark mirror of the person they attach to, Zinzi being always in motion gets a sloth. A Guardian reviewer suggested they might rather relate to the person the guilt relates to – Zinzi lost a brother and so has a creature always around her neck, holding on. I wasn’t sure about any of those parallels, so didn’t draw them out above, but it’s a surprisingly flexible allegory.

    I agree with you on the doll thing, though I think some are part-electronic so that if neglected they do actually start crying (which, if a teenager, I’d address by putting it in a drawer under several layers of clothes, which is arguably not the best lesson for parenthood).

    Anyway, I think it’s worth checking out. Have a look at the other reviews I link to and see what you think. Or of course you could just download a kindle sample, I think the US version is free of the errors I encountered.

  3. Thanks for the recommendation. I am always on the lookout for new and interesting books in the sci-fi and fantasy realm. I didn’t read all your review, because I want to read the book first. But I’ll come back to when I do read it.

  4. Cool, I hope you like it when you check it out. Also, do check out David’s blog – he has some really interesting stuff there (Redemption in Indigo is one I’m considering getting as a result of his reviews).

    My reviews are always spoiler free by the way, but I know what you mean about not wanting to read a review sometimes before the book. One doesn’t want one’s view prebaked by someone else’s interpretation. It can be a bit like seeing a film or TV version before reading a book, it’s hard afterwards to see the characters independently of the actors who played them.

  5. Woo! You should definitely review more sci-fi, Max!
    I know this ruffled a few feathers with Arthur C award fans, not because of the quality of the book(I agree, it’s great), but because of the whole “it’s not PROPER sci-fi” — whatever that means. I’ve read entire books by writers wrestling with how to define sci-fi and, as such, I have a pretty fast and loose approach to it. So, like you say, I thought it was great that Zoo City won.

    Great review: I liked your comment about the timeline being a mirror of the real-world spread of AIDS – very insightful analogy. :)

    Sorry to hear about your kindle issues though: I’ve had similar problems in the past with my e-reader. One book with different fonts/layouts was shrunk by my reader to a tiny, unreadable size which just would not zoom, not matter how much I fiddled with the settings. Bah! Not worth the fuss, sometimes.

    T.

  6. If I read more, I’d have space for more SF, but there’s so much else I don’t want to bump for it. So it goes.

    The Aids thing is a great insight isn’t it Tom? Sadly it’s not mine. I read it in another review and it struck me as interesting so I repeated it. I can’t recall where it originated.

    Kindle books do have formatting issues more often than paper books in my experience. My current Bainbridge has the occasional random space or hyphen (though thankfully not a huge number). This was particularly bad, but at least the publishers were good about it.

  7. In what seems a very fitting coincidence, I received one of those fake emails today, of the sort December writes in the novel. Life imitating art.

  8. I think I’d like this one, it’a a wonderful idea. While I was reading your review, I was wondering how say, Stalin would have lived with his crowd of animals following him. These dictators couldn’t go through a door or would cause traffic jams with their herd.
    I’m putting it on my wish list.
    It’s nice to be able to interact with a writer that way. By the end of my book buying ban, the kindle version will be fixed!

    Guy: I’ve always thought these egg/dolls programs incredible and a perfect example at how Americans and French don’t solve problems the same way. Here, fighting against teenage pregnancies would be about using condoms, knowing the places to go to get free pills or morning pills…suppressing the problem at its source and not frightening teenagers about parenthood.

  9. I think you only get one each, but also interestingly there’s a suggestion at one point that some killers may not get them – psychopaths feel no guilt and it’s the guilt that’s the trigger, not the death. I think that adds interest, as someone may feel that level of guilt without necessarily actually being responsible.

    You could get the French translation if you wanted. Apparently there was a plot error in an early scene, the French translator noticed it and it was fixed. The English original isn’t difficult though – it’s not like Under the Volcano (though from the sound of it little is).

  10. Reblogged this on espresso coco and commented:
    An excellent review of Lauren Beukes’ excellent novel Zoo City, one of my favourite books of recent years. Highly recommended. Don’t take my word for it, have a read of the review, go pick yourself up a copy and thank us later.
    Oh, and while you’re at it, pre-order Lauren’s new book The Shining Girls too. It’s brilliant.

  11. It looks like to me from your review that Lauren Beukes’ most recent book is one not to miss! Sounds so energetic and imaginative with a mix of sci-fi, fantasy and action! Kudos!

  12. Thanks dakegra, much appreciated. segmation, definitely. I saw an interview where the interviewer asked Beukes if she minded when people said it was better than her first novel (which it is, though I liked the first novel too) and she said that she’d mind much more if her second novel wasn’t better than her first as it would suggest she wasn’t learning and improving.

    All of which makes The Shining Girls a definite purchase for me when it comes out. I’m looking forward to it. Beukes is now firmly on my (frankly these days fairly short) list of SF authors I try to follow (and, at risk of having way too many brackest in one comment, the only one I actually succeed in following).

    The others, for the curious, are Alistair Reynolds, Richard Morgan, William Gibson, Maureen F. McHugh and probably a handful of others but not many. Each of those has several books I’ve not read though, Reynolds has entire series I’ve not read. So it goes. We all only have so much time.

  13. This looks kind of awesome!

  14. Great review of what sounds like a fantastic novel… well, I say that but I missed out the middle of the review so that I didn’t read any plot spoilers!

    Much like you, genre boundaries don’t matter to me – I’m just on the lookout for a great read. I’m currently writing a novel and have no idea if it fits neatly in to any single category. I just hope it’s good enough that other people won’t care either.

    Thanks for the review.

  15. This was a lovely read, the review that you have provided. Not being an ardent follower of science fiction, I think it is amazing that you have me convinced to go buy this book!

  16. Haven’t read any SF / Fantasy in decades, except for some slush reading that I do. Your review really got me going. I’m going to look this novel up. Thanks.

  17. I am excited to read this book solely based on your review. I looked up the author and believe I will read her first book as well. I have enjoyed sci-fi and fantasy, though not in a hard-core-boundary-defining-panty-in-a-wad sort of way. Thanks for the review, you have a great flow to your writing, I look forward to reading more.

  18. Thanks for the comments folks.

    beautifulorange, there shouldn’t hopefully be any spoilers above, but I do understand and one person’s spoiler threshold is often not another’s. I generally try to avoid spoilers in all my reviews, which was hardest to achieve with the reviews of the A Dance to the Music of Time series by Anthony Powell – twelve books tracking the lives of a group of friends and the people they meet along the way from before the first world war up to the 1970s. Writing about, say, book ten without giving away stuff that happened in book two is incredibly hard.

    Good series by the way, sort of a posh literary soap opera, which is a description that probably actively puts people off it…

    For those who don’t read much SF I actually do think this is still a potential runner. One could argue there are two sorts of SF, the big ideas driven stuff and the more social/allegorical stuff (one would be wrong, because it’s much more complex than that, but even though it’s wrong it’s a useful argument).

    I tend when I read SF to read the big ideas stuff, so people like Alistair Reynolds with distant galaxies and cutting edge physics and much that will leave you entirely cold if you’re not into the genre. That’s because I read SF as a break from my main reading of literary fiction, so I tend to want something different from it.

    The more social tradition though is where the best writing is often found. Authors like say Beukes, Gibson, Mary Doria Russell, are talking much more about our world than any distant one. One of the people who often comment here, Lorinda, is I know writing stories which while ostensibly about insectoid aliens on some far distant world are actually (seem I should say, I’ve not had a chance to read the one I’ve got yet) heavily influenced by ideas of mythology and experience of myth.

    Some authors of course combine both strands, CJ Cherryh springs to mind.

    Anyway, I’m massively digressing, the point was that Beukes although clearly an SF writer is using SF in large part to talk about our world, as SF so often does. That’s what makes it I think potentially interesting to non-SF readers where a more hard-edged SF novel might not be.

  19. Reblogged this on The Blurred Line and commented:
    A wonderful blog about a visionary author and fellow high school survivee – Lauren Beukes and Zoo City. Her new book, The Shining Girls, is about to launch.

  20. Brilliant! Lauren’s new book The Shining Girls will be out soon. She’s on FB here http://www.facebook.com/laurenbeukes?ref=ts&fref=ts

  21. Abbi

    We are currently reading this for book club. It’s interesting to hear a non-South African’s take on it. I was wondering if the strong cultural overtone makes any of it confusing?

  22. Thanks Victoria.

    Abbi, good question. For me no, and I’ve not been to South Africa (I’ve worked on a South African project once, but I never went there so I wouldn’t claim that gave me any cultural insight).

    For me it’s a question of the writer’s skill. There’s a book here in the archives called Love and Longing in Bombay, by Vikram Chandra, which is steeped in Indian cultural detail. Chandra, like Beukes, is a good enough writer that even if you’re not from the same background you can pick it up organically.

    Also, Beukes does a really good job here I think of communicating the setting without use of infodumps, big chunks of exposition or explanation. After all, it’s not just the South African elements that were unfamiliar, but also the animalled, the whole alternate world she’s created.

    So I guess where I come out is that with a less skilled author that might have been an issue, but here for me at least it wasn’t. In fact, the relative exoticism (relative to me I mean) added to the interest, in the same way George Alec Effinger’s masterful When Gravity Fails and its sequels, cyberpunk novels set in North Africa.

    I just looked at my Vikram Chandra review (http://pechorinsjournal.wordpress.com/2008/12/23/love-and-longing-in-bombay/), and this paragraph from that seemed right on point:

    “Equally, where Indian words are used, they are not translated and we are left to deduce their meanings (if we do not already know them, I didn’t) from context. I said in another entry on my blog that a good work should not need a glossary, the story should make plain what the words mean. Here that is the case, although words are often used which (not being Indian) I am not familiar with, I was always able to see easily from the text what they must mean at least in large part and other than the story titles themselves I never felt any need of translation (and one could not translate those titles and still enjoy the stories in their own right). As with the endings, not everything in life is explained, not everything is comprehensible. Life is larger than we are, and keeping going despite sometimes not fully understanding everything is a key part of it.”

    Funny looking back at that, it’s a 2008 review and I wrote more formally back then, and with much longer paragraphs. Great book the Chandra, I encourage anyone reading this to check it out (it’s not really got anything to do with Zoo City, except that both are good).

  23. Though I don’t often read sci-fi, this book sounds really good. The plot is interesting. I don’t care about the prize itself, but you could have ‘discovered’ a good novel for me.

  24. I loved this book. I’m from South Africa, and even though it’s fantasy, the atmosphere she creates feels so familiar.

  25. Perhaps I missed it, but why is the title ‘In Zoo City it’s impolite to ask’? What exactly did you mean by ‘impolite to ask’? I am simply curious. Thank you for the review, by the way, I believe I should go find this book now.

  26. Great post! Looks like I’ll have to add this book to my list. Cheers, Sam

  27. jasminonajourney

    I shall have to check this book out! I also review books, amongst other things, though I confess my posts are much shorter. Very admirable depth and insight – thanks.

  28. Hi all,

    Firstly, regarding the title of the post, I tend to use a quote from the book as the title to my posts. In this case it refers to two things. At the immediate level, it’s impolite to ask why someone is animalled, to enquire what they did that merited such guilt and who they killed (or feel responsible for the death of, anyway).

    On the subtler level though it’s a more general comment. In Zoo City it’s impolite to ask anything much. As is mentioned in one of Damon Runyon’s short stories about crooks and grifters on Broadway, if you ask questions you risk getting a reputation as the sort of person who asks questions. As a rule of thumb, when you’re living in a criminal ghetto, whatever your question it’s probably best left unasked.

    Secondly, the evocation of South Africa is one of Beukes’ real strengths and why in part these are rewarding, even I think for the non-SF fan.

    Otherwise, thank you all for the comments. Jasmin, my reviews believe it or not when I started out were even longer…

  29. It’s funny, because my print edition actually had a lot of errors and typos and annoying formatting issues. It rather bothered me at the time, though I didn’t remember it until you mentioned your issues now. Clearly the book itself left a stronger impact on me… because you’re right, it is good. I don’t think I was quite as impressed (being less a fan of noir-ish writing in general), but this is definitely a noteworthy novel.

  30. Small press publisher, so perhaps it’s harder to avoid those issues, I don’t know. I am I admit a noir fan, so that will have helped me like it. Even without that though one might not like it as much, but as you say it remains good.

    How did you manage to get italics in a comment? I’m dead impressed…

  31. It’s all about the basic HTML. The day I discovered I could use HTML in WordPress comments was a very dramatic day indeed…

  32. Excellent review, Max. I really enjoyed Zoo City and Zinzi is such a sassy, feisty character. I found myself rooting for her, wanting her to survive despite some of her shady exploits. I agree with your observation that Beukes is terrific at capturing the essence of contemporary urban SA – I felt transported to Zinzi’s world through those vivid descriptions of noises, colours and smells.
    The narrative powers along with so much verve, doesn’t it? I was quite happy with the ending, although there were mixed feelings amongst our book group on this point. A couple of people felt the book left too many questions unanswered, too many loose ends or aspects open to interpretation (especially the ‘why’and meaning of the Undertow and whether Zinzi had been set up from the get-go). The ending felt a little rushed maybe, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

  33. Thanks Jacqui. A colleague at work read this recently (having read this review apparently), and didn’t like the ending which she thought a bit action-packed and thriller-ish compared to the rest of the book (I’m paraphrasing her, partly to avoid spoilers).

    It seems quite a common feeling. David’s review that I link to above mentions an issue with the ending, as does Niall’s that David links to in turn. Was that the issue for your group? A feeling of perhaps a change in tone and of the plot suddenly overwhelming the other elements and perhaps coming over a little rushed as you put it?

    As I say, I was fine with that, but then I had the benefit of having read reviews that disliked the ending so perhaps I was in a position to be pleasantly surprised rather than let down by it. Hard to say.

    For me, I can see why people want more explained in terms of the worldbuilding, but I think it would have been a weaker book. When one looks at what’s good about it, the writing, the characters, the sense of place, I’m not sure more detail on the quantum voodoo handwavey explanation for the undertow would have made for a better book. More comprehensible, yes, but not necessarily better. It would have been dead exposition, something SF is prone to and which I think Beukes is fairly good at avoiding.

    Will you read her new one which seems to have gone rather stellar in terms of exposure? I’ve a review of her previous here too, Moxyland. Not as good as this, but I enjoyed it and it’s worth reading.

  34. Thanks for your reply, Max. That’s interesting to hear. Re the ending: yes, some members of our group felt the ending accelerated through the gears (too quickly) in terms of pace and tone. There was a sense of various strands of the plot being tied up, but in such a way that came across as somewhat OTT. Personally, I was quite happy with the ending; the narrative and tone felt quite noirish and I could sense a high-impact, event-driven ending coming. Perhaps this is just a function of different people wanting (or expecting) different things from an ending, particularly where the narrative involves a mystery.
    I completely agree with you when it comes to explanations for the various elements at play within Zinzi’s world. For me, one of the real pleasures of the book was being able to discover and experience that world as I moved through the chapters. I liked the fact that the characters don’t tell us about or give explanations for various aspects – this would have weighed the book down, I think. Beukes’ approach leaves things open to interpretation giving the reader more to ponder (or discuss, as in the case of our book group) and this worked for me. Again, a couple of members of our group would have liked more answers, more gaps filled in…different folks and all that!
    We had a great discussion about the book including different allegorical interpretations of the animalled and Undertow, but I won’t say any more here for fear of getting into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, we thought Zoo City a terrific choice for a book group.
    Yes, I think I will read The Shining Girls. It has gone a bit ballistic, hasn’t it? Interestingly, the person who chose Zoo City for our book group didn’t click with TSG – the premise didn’t particularly appeal to her and she found certain aspects a bit too tricksy. I’ve heard plenty of good things about it from others, though! One member of our group absolutely loved Zoo City and I’m pretty sure he’ll move on to Moxyland (our copies of Zoo contained a meaty extract from Moxy). I’d be interested to hear what you think of The Shining Girls, if you read it. I’ll probably wait a few months before giving it a go, just to put a bit of space between the two (and read a few others from the tbr pile).

  35. Jacqui,

    Sorry for the slow reply, and thank you for your thoughts. Shining Girls is just on another level marketingwise isn’t it? Ballistic as you say.

    I’m expecting it to be tricksy. Given I enjoy SF I don’t expect that to be an issue, my one concern though with some of the marketing is that it doesn’t really emphasise that it is SF which for some readers I suspect will lead to their being quite surprised by the actual story.

  36. Luckily dogs dont get cadged up in a zoo. So im lucky

  37. Pingback: Last week, Freight Books read… | Freight Books Blog

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