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Zodiac Paperback – 24 May 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (24 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099415526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099415527
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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)

Book Description

Frightening, funny, fast and furious, Zodiac is thrilling speculative fiction torn straight from today's headlines.

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Zodiac is described on the cover blurb as an 'eco-thriller', and for a change the blurb is close to being accurate. The book's main character is an ecological-crime detective, busily hunting down evidence of corporations illegally dumping hazardous waste and using publicity stunts and clogging up discharge pipes with cement as his main weapons against these companies. The book takes on a decided thriller aspect with the introduction of gene-tailored bacteria, designed to 'eat' contaminates, but there is a variety that generates them instead. How these bacteria are tracked down and controlled provides the main thrust for this book.
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.
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Format: Paperback
An early example of Neal Stephenson's work, this does not have quite the depth of imagination of later offerings (such as Snow Crash or The Diamond Age) but the action is fast, the use of language excellent and the science spot on. In most works of Science Fiction the science is Physics, yet in Zodiac it's Chemistry and Biology that get a chance to shine. The introduction of a character with some scientific training into a situation where those with more knee-jerk views often dominate is a pleasing feature of this novel. The plotting sometimes goes slightly astray (the Satanist Rock band's involvement is sketchy and ill explained) and our main protagonist certainly seems to be more a super-hero of the 50's who can do no wrong than a late 80's drop-out. However these minor points should not detract from this books appeal as a a good action read. I would like to know if it has inspired anyone to partake in some direct action?
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Format: Paperback
Set in Boston this thriller centres on the exploits of the oddly monikered Sangamon Taylor aka The Toxic Spiderman. He is a chemist working for a group of environmentalists called GEE, and is trying to prevent pollution of the waterways by chemical companies. As a professional pain in the ass he publicly humiliates and embarrasses the major chemical corporations that are polluting the environment.
Sangamon Taylor is a chemist for the Northwestern chapter of GEE International (Group of Environmental Extremists). He is blond shaggy haired and wears tennis shoes and multiple t-shirts. A graduate of Boston University he is looked down upon by those from MIT.
He sees himself as the archnemesis of the chemical company Basco the number two polluter in the table of polluters of Boston Harbour. The Boston population as a whole and the sewage they produce hold the number one spot.
Zodiac is the only hardboiled ecological thriller I know of and it features what has become the trademark Stephenson wit. The book features assassination attempts, genetically engineered bacteria and a cast of characters that ranges from Native Americans to the Executives of chemical companies and their heavy metal loving teenage sons.
A mystery not of the whodunit variety, but more of the what the heck happened and why did it happen. The book also acts as an introduction to environmental issues and the science of pollution.
Even though it doesn't feature any hackers the hacker ethos is present in the book in the form of Sangamon Taylor a cool anti-establishment chemistry nerd.
The return of the psycho nerd Dolmacher in Zodiac has similarities to that of Andrew Loeb in Cryptonomicon.
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Format: Paperback
I like Neal Stephenson, so I was really keen to read Zodiac. And it started off strongly, kicking into the action with his trademark style. As always, his observations on urban dystopia are right on the money and wonderfully wry.
"I just cycle like I'm covered in day-glo and there's a million-dollar bounty on my head," indeed. Heh.
But the story falters as it progresses, and I get the feeling that he got bored with the project about two-thirds of the way into it. Sangamon Taylor's all negatives; he hates pollutors, but he doesn't seem to love what he protects. Ancillary characters like Boone are woefully under-fleshed, where there could have been some great interaction (questioning why activists do what they do, for example - out of love or hate?), there's just movement.
It's a fun book, and if you've got a Greenpeace membership, you'll enjoy it, but it's not a patch on Stephenson's best work.
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Format: Paperback
Firstly, I'd just like to point-out that I'm usually a huge fan of Neal Stephenson - 'The Diamond Age' was his first work that I read, and I found the imaginative breadth astounding - 'Snow Crash' remains one of my favourite books, capable of being re-read many times over.
Unfortunately, 'Zodiac' did not live up to my expectations. I found it to be poorly researched (and, although I hesistate to say it, I must consider adding "if at all" to that), and containing some extraordinarily shaky science.
Furthermore, the actions of some of the characters, both main and supporting, are so unbelieveably amateurish as to defeat the reader's suspension of disbelief - a far cry from the usually polished work of the man who almost had me hearing the glossolalia in 'Snow Crash'.
I'd rather not turn this review into a character assassination of this book - some may like it, and I note that other reviews on Amazon have been quite favourable. 'Zodiac' is not Cyberpunk, but also doesn't shine the contemporary thriller category. To be honest I'm not sure what Mr. Stephenson was attempting to achieve with this book, but I'm very very glad that so far he's not repeated what I believe was a mistake.
To be honest - one to avoid. In fact, if you must get this book you can have my copy!
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