I just finished Zoo City by Lauren Beukes who is from South Africa. A fascinating book. It was a kind of an alternate history, hard-boiled detective, magical, strange combination of a book.
It seems that when you do something really bad (being the cause of someone’s death will do it), you get an animal familiar that stays with you, you are animalled. In fact if your animal gets too far away you go through debilitating anxiety. If it dies, then you die a nasty death where shadows come together and tear you apart. Zizi, the main character, has a sloth.
Oh yeah, when you get animalled, you get some kind of psychic power. Zizs’s is that she can find things that are lost. She sees everyone with threads tying them to whatever they feel they have lost.
This new version of our world (it takes place in an alternate version of today), particularly Johannesburg, is a very good bit of worldbuilding as the social repercussions are explored in the book.
Due to complicated circumstances involving Zizi’s debt to a drug dealer that she is paying off by her involvement in ‘419’ scams, Zizi takes on a missing persons case involving a pop twin singing duo. This, in classic hard-boiled tradition, leads her into many more privileged parts of Jo-burg society.
It’s a really cool book (it won the 2011 World Fantasy Award among others) and hit a number of my hot buttons for the kinds of things I like to read. I’ve already gotten her first novel, Moxyland, on my Nook.