Zoo City - Lauren Beukes
This book has picked up a number of award nominations and wins, so I thought I'd check it out as I'm always looking for something good and a little different in the science fiction world.

'Zoo City' is set in a future alternate South Africa, one where a significant chunk of the population have suffered from a particular ailment - essentially, the commiting of a crime leads to an animal becoming attached to you and the loss of that animal is a Very Bad Thing indeed. On the flipside, the posession of that animal is also accompanied by some kind of psychic gift. As a visual representation of someone's past behaviour or failings, the existence of an animal by your side points you out as someone different, with the resultant discrimination.

Our protagonist, Zinzi, is one such - she has a Sloth as a companion and makes her living by being involved in 419 scams and exercising her psychic gift for finding things. In 'Zoo City' Zinzi gets dragged into the search for the missing half of a teeange pop sensation and discovers much more sinister things going on beneath the world she thought she already knew everything about.

It's a clever read, with Zinzi (and Sloth) being well-written and rounded characters; by the end of the book, you feel like Zinzi is starting to realise just what her previous actions have done to others, for the first time since she got Sloth and became very focussed on her own survival. Unfortunately, the author didn't seem to have figured out how she wanted to end the book and it pretty much just stops with the written equivalent of fade-to-black, which is disappointing. Still, I'll be keeping an eye out for future novels by this writer, as I'm interested to see how she follows up on something that was so critically lauded...