Zodiac: the Eco-Thriller Paperback – 3 Feb 2007
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"Zodiac is a great read... A funny, non-stop adventure... A fun and fast-paced eco-thriller, with enough themes and "action" to keep the pages turning until they run out." (Peace News) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Frightening, funny, fast and furious, Zodiac is thrilling speculative fiction torn straight from today's headlines. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
The plot is the main driver here, characterization outside of the protagonist is definitely skimpy, and in places the ecological warnings (though presented with apparent good scientific backing) become a little too strident, in places reminding me of Philip Wylie's The End of the Dream. Unlike some of his later books, his message is delivered almost directly, with little in the way of satire, irony, or his by-now patented brand of humor. The plot moves rapidly and logically, with enough potential hazard in the situation to easily quality as a 'thriller'. This makes for a quick read, but without his special zing that would make this book stand out.
Definitely an early effort, not in the class of his Snow Crash or The Diamond Age, still quite readable, but probably a must only for Stephenson hard-core fans.
Sagamon is an environmentalist of an organisation moulded on Greenpeace. He works in Boston monitoring the condition of the Boston Harbour which, ever since the tea-party, has been a dumping ground for all kinds of toxic waste. Sagamon is a brilliant chemist who has found a niche in the world of environmental terrorism somewhere between totally legal and occasionally not. His greatest strength is in detecting the source of any discovered toxin in the water, and then publicly drawing the crime to the attention of the public by means of various stunts. Usually he organises the pipe/outlet to be blocked up, then conducts a public slagging match with the company's PR department and gets the press there to film it all. The companies he takes on are huge conglomerates who don't take kindly to his meddling, and are not shy of sending the heavies in. Combine all that with a smart mouth, an eye for the women, toughness and isolation, and the Philip Marlowe profile is complete.
The case in this case concerns a mysterious toxin that he discovers whilst experimenting with a new method of sampling the area's water. He convinces the local lobster fishermen to provide him with the dregs of their catch. Since lobster pots are placed in a set pattern across the harbour, Sagamon is able to plot the different concentrates of toxins found inside the lobsters. One such toxin is of great concern to him, a PCB (genetically alter toxin) which appears in such a high concentration he is frightened into releasing an immediate warning via his publicity machine. At that concentration the threat of an ocean wide poisoning in a short space of time suggests the ultimate destruction of the earth we all recycle our glass and newspapers to prevent (and yet know in our hearts is inevitable). 24hours later no trace can be found and Sagamon is left with egg (or PCBs) on his face. The detective work begins in a gritty, racy plot that involves the Mafia, the FBI, a group of Satanists, businessmen and Zodiacs. (Zodiacs are the fast and manoeuvrable inflatable dinghies that are used to zip around the harbour.)
What I especially liked about this book is that the discovery of this toxin becomes a metaphor for the slow environmental destruction we are already aware of. Donaldson cleverly widens the grey areas between environment terrorism and environmental corrupters, and, because the Science Fiction is only evident as the detective work progresses, we are skilfully allowed to believe a world-wide environmental break down is possible, now. Detective fiction is often written to the formula that is: society breaks down as a crime occurs, an outsider (the detective/loner) comes and solves the crime and society is harmonised, the outsider returns to his/her present state. This formula works well in this novel for any number of reasons, not least because the crime itself literally eats away at society.
Beyond that the usual stuff is true: characters well drawn and full of surprises; smart, funny, relevant, and easily written. This is Stephen Donaldson's first novel and whilst it doesn't have the breath and inventiveness of Diamond Age and Snow Crash it's a hugely enjoyable read and very clever too; Zodiac, like its namesake, is fast, sassy and un-deflatable.
A consumate storyteller, the horrifying subject matter gives a new insight to life on the edge of eco-terrorism.
Stephenson rocks !!
The story is simple in concept, Sangamon Taylor discovers that a multi national company has allowed cancer causing PCBs into the bay, and the book covers his battle to find out the truth and prevent more damage being caused to the environment. His story involves run ins with satanists, heavy metal fans, and corporate America - all described in the detailed and colourful way that I loved in Snow Crash.
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