Awhile back, I heard an interview on NPR with author Lauren Beukes who had recently won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for her book Zoo City. It sounded rather interesting, and the Kindle edition was a nice $0.99 so I grabbed a copy.
The premise is about a former drug addict, Zinzi December who has the magical gift of being able to track lost objects. She also has the unusual circumstance of having an animal familiar: A sloth. Many characters have such animals with them (reminiscent of His Dark Materials), and they are gained when a character has an exceptionally remorseful incident in their past.
Zinzi is hired by a music producer to hunt down a missing singer which gets her into all sorts of troubles. While it is an engaging and fast paced read, my final conclusion is that this book was lacking. Mostly in the character motivation and background departments.
Zinzi's animal familiar was picked up because she feels remorse over being involved in her brother's death. Yet this isn't well explained. It's just left free floating.
The final villains also lack any credible reason for much of what they do. One is simply trying to rid himself of his animal because those that are burdened with them are stereotyped and looked down upon. This much is clear, but the fact that it's possible to transfer the animals to other isn't hinted at early on, and as such, it's a very quick "Where did that come from?" when that's what the character does. Very much a deux ex.
There's two other baddies that, in the end, get away, and their motivations are never explored at all. At best, they're just out for some money making them annoyingly one-dimensional.
The singer is found, but ends up being a brat who thinks her manager is out to kill her. She's right, but given that it wasn't made clear how she could have known that, her actions lack conviction.
Another frequent topic is how those that are followed by animals are constantly in fear of a mysterious power known as the Undertow, which will kill them horribly and is only kept at bay by the animals. This power too is never explained. That's not the end of the world to me. Mysterious powers abound in sci-fi and fantasy. Star Wars was better when the Force was just an "energy field" and not a ham-fisted attempt to rationalize it with "midichlorians".
This lack of motivation didn't make me want to stop reading. I continually hoped that it would be resolved, but upon reaching the end, I was just disappointed.
I'm somewhat curious if this book is just the first in a series, or a larger universe since it ends rather abruptly with villains, as well as the protagonist, still on the run and several loose ends. If that's the case, I may be tempted to continue reading, but on its own, this book didn't fare well with me.