zoo city/elmer

Two reviews in one post! Animals!

Zoo City

In Lauren Beukes’s alternate world, a person gets paired with an animal (mashavi) after he or she commits murder, and is also endowed with a corresponding magical ability. While the animals, or familiars, represent a person’s soul in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, in the brilliantly imagined Zoo City, the animals (according to one theory) are the external manifestations of a person’s guilt or sin – a bright scarlet letter that breathes and feeds and lives. Imagine being an “animalled” in this world. You will find it hard to look for a job or a decent place to live. You cannot deny your crime. One look at you, and people will know that you have blood on your hands.

Zinzi December has a Sloth. Her magical ability is finding lost things. Her crime is killing her brother. She runs a 419 scam. You know those scams involving Nigerian princes? She writes those letters. One day, she is offered a considerable sum to find a missing person.

The novel has so many unique ideas but doesn’t turn the story into a massive info dump. That’s the beauty of it. It paints the world of Zoo City one stroke at a time, and talks about important things like war and poverty and faith without preaching. And its a damn good mystery, too. A genuine page-turner.


Another page-turner, with a premise that I would have laughed at if it were developed by a less talented mind.

One day, in the late 70s, all of the chickens of the world Awaken. The chickens in jampacked coops, the chickens on their way to slaughter – all of them wake up and become conscious, become aware of who they are and what the humans have done to them. Some of them fight back. Some, like Elmer, are rescued by a sympathetic human and goes into hiding. The story is told through Elmer’s diary, handed over to his son Jake after his death.

You know what Elmer reminded me of? Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

The novel relates the plight of a widowed field mouse, Mrs. Frisby, who seeks the aid of a group of former laboratory rats in rescuing her home from destruction by a farmer’s plow, and of the history of the rats’ escape from the laboratory and development of a literate and technological society.

Oh my God. Wished I still had a copy. Loved that novel to bits.

And loved this comic, too. There are flaws (here’s Adam David’s excellent review; beware – spoilers) but as an inquiry into civil rights and what it means to be human, its power cannot be denied. Gerry Alanguilan’s chicken story is worthy of praise.

The Mighty Reading List!

Feast for Crows

The Kobayashi Maru of Love

Showbiz Lengua

PGS Horror issue

Floating Dragon

El Bimbo Variations

The Tesseract

Faithful Place


Zoo City

The Dispossessed

Our Story Begins

Glass Soup

Here on Earth

The Pull of the Moon

Little Bee

Story Quarterly Issue 44

The Bell Jar

Philippine Speculative Fiction 6

Pacific Rims

Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan

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