Thank you, Tochi Onyebuchi for recommending Zoo City on Electric Lit, as a part of their awesome Read More Women series. Honoured to be listed alongside the likes of Akwaeke Emezi, my friend Nnedi Okorafor, Werewere Liking and Namwali Serpell.
The setting is Jo’burg. Our protagonist: a recovering journalist and former addict named Zinzi December. Who is bonded to a sloth. Who she believes carries the spirit of her dead brother, Thando. You see, in this version of Johannesburg, someone who is culpable in a murder is automatically “animalled,” or psychically attached to an animal familiar. Stray too far from your animal, and you’ll catch panic attacks and nausea and debilitating withdrawal symptoms. And if your animal dies, you will be torn to shreds by a mysterious dark cloud. Now say you’re bound to a crime syndicate that’s paying off your debt to your dealer. And say, to escape your debt to the crime syndicate, you take a job from a music producer to track down the missing half of a teen-pop duo. The magic in this version of Johannesburg’s Hillbrow suburb carries the kind of grit that sticks between your teeth, the narrative voice coated in such hard-boiled rasp that you’ll find yourself constantly reaching for a glass of water.
Thanks reader @coverd_books for the cool photo of the South African edition of Zoo City.