Ty Tierwater is 75 and in charge of a rock star's private menagerie of endangered species. How he came to this, he's not quite sure, but with the Earth's fragile ecological balance finally upset, he looks back on his life, and his time in Eco terrorist group `Earth Forever!' with a wry and resigned humour at odds with the current state of his affairs. Lost - and regained - loves, the martyrdom of his only daughter to the eco cause, and his own enthusiastic but clumsily ineffectual environmental efforts provide fuel for the fire of reminiscence, all delivered in Boyle's own inimitable style.
A moral message? Yup, I guess so. But once again, Boyle manages to expertly tell his tale, and yet deliver characters that are resolutely and defiantly imoprobable, or rather, undeserving of sympathy or empathy. Good story, well told, bt somewhat unengaging.
T.C. Boyle is a proven master story teller, and this tale of eco-destruction is no exception. His characters have depth and are believable. The plot flips tantalisingly from future to past, each tense's events revealing significance in the other. If you're looking for a detailed break-down of the post-disaster eco-scape, then read Lovelock, or some other eco-guru. Here, Boyle wisely skirts the minutiae in favour of the bigger picture (i.e. humans are not at the centre of the ecosystem, and nature just keeps on rolling). The result is a spikey moral fable, shot through with irony, and lightly frosted with hope.
...I found this book well-observed and generous. The characters are truthful and extremely human - there is no soapboxing here which would be easy in a novel with an environmental theme. Simply a Pelecanos-like world-weariness which accepts our destructiveness and tries to make something liveable from the ruins. An excellent, intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable read. Can't wait to go and order some more of his books.
I rather liked this. The central character is more or less an eco-fascist; 'to be a friend of the earth you have to be an enemy of the people', he says. Still, it does rather clarify the issue; personally I don't think the planet needs saving, but human civilisation does.
His daughter dies in a tree protest (sorry if that's a plot spoiler, though you'd have to be pretty dumb not to see it coming); I couldn't help thinking of the Simpsons episode where Lisa camps up in a tree to stop it being chopped down, which rather spoilt the pathos of this episode.
Still, it doesn't pull any punches. The reviewers who seem to think that the eco-disaster it portrays doesn't seem disastrous enough must have pretty thick skins - there's nothing much to eat, for starters.
My opinion of this book is obvious from the rating. But why?
I'd like to concentrate on what you might actually be expecting from a book about a near-future post-ecodisaster Earth.
An ecodisaster? Sorry; we're led to believe it's out there, but not much in the way of description from Mr Boyle (err, it's wet and windy). This does little to conjure an image of a credible future world. OK, so the ecodisaster bit is just a frame for the hilarious, sometimes moving, always dynamic plot and subplots? No, sorry again. To describe this book as 'comic', perhaps only pertains to its category in my home library. Moving? Somehow emotive? Well, I had a few motions whilst reading this book, but none of them were complimentary. Satirical then? Asking questions about our current perspective on climate change? Well, maybe. Although the declaration "..to be a friend of the Earth you have to be an enemy of the people..." is about as deep as it gets. Boyle makes no attempt to broaden this argument amongst his protagonists, and as such betrays perhaps ignorance of the subject matter, or a desire to avoid further contention. Unfortunate, because this could have been the most interesting aspect of this novel. T C Boyle has written much, much better books. And no doubt will do so again. Read it if you're desperate to complete all of the author's work, otherwise look elsewhere for your entertainment, provocation, immersion or whatever else you get out of a good book, because this isn't one.