Zoo City: A Brief History of the Book

Zoo City is a mesmerizing novel written by Lauren Beukes, a South African author known for her exceptional storytelling skills and unique narrative style. Released in 2010, the book takes readers on a thrilling journey through the gritty and supernatural underbelly of an alternate Johannesburg.

The Plot of Zoo City

The story unfolds in a world where people who have committed crimes are burdened with an animal familiar, known as their “stray.” These strays represent the guilt and consequences of their bearer’s actions, binding them to a life of continuous penance. Our protagonist, Zinzi December, is one such individual who is paired with a sloth after being involved in a mysterious accident.

Zinzi, a former journalist with a knack for finding lost things, becomes entangled in a dangerous case when she is hired to locate a missing pop star. As she delves deeper into the investigation, she uncovers a tangled web of corruption, secrets, and dark magic. Alongside her sloth familiar, she must navigate through the slums of Zoo City and confront her own demons to solve the case.

Awards, Critiques, and Praise

Upon its release, Zoo City gained widespread acclaim and received several prestigious awards, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2011. Its captivating plot, compelling characters, and vivid portrayal of Johannesburg’s urban landscape left readers and critics alike in awe.

Beukes’ masterful craftsmanship in merging elements of crime fiction, urban fantasy, and speculative fiction garnered commendations from renowned authors and reviewers. The book was praised for its well-developed characters, intricate world-building, and thought-provoking exploration of themes such as guilt, redemption, and the consequences of one’s actions.

Key Characters in Zoo City

Zinzi December: The complex and resilient protagonist of the story. Zinzi December is a flawed but resourceful woman burdened with a sloth familiar and a dark past. Her determination and sharp wit make her a captivating character to follow throughout the book.

Benjamin: Zinzi’s endearing and empathetic brother. He plays a crucial role in supporting his sister while also dealing with his own struggles.

General Radebe: A powerful and intimidating figure who holds authority over the Animalled community. General Radebe becomes both a mentor and an adversary to Zinzi as she delves deeper into the mysteries of Zoo City.

Songweza: The missing pop star who sets the story in motion. Zinzi’s search for Songweza leads her into a treacherous world of fame and dark secrets.


With its gripping narrative, memorable characters, and imaginative setting, Zoo City stands as a testament to Lauren Beukes’ prowess as a gifted storyteller. This page-turner has left an indelible mark on the literary landscape, captivating readers who have a passion for literature across various formats, including books, audiobooks, e-books, and podcasts.

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