Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club
Zodiac; the eco-thriller (1988)
(not about Astrology!)
Bantam Spectra paperback (left)
cover art by Bruce Jensen
Atlantic Monthly Press trade paperback (right)
edition first printing
cover art by Steve Carver
Amy's Summary :
Neal Stephenson - Zodiac; the eco-thriller
The book Zodiac, which reads more like fiction than science fiction, is set in the 1980s and is told from the point of view of Sangamon Taylor, S. T., a long-haired, environmentalist activist with GEE International, a fictional organization that seems to be based on Greenpeace.
One of his housemates calls Sangamon a Granola James Bond. But he'd rather be called Toxic Spiderman because, for one, he's broke - unlike former college classmate, Dolmacher, who is on the opposite site of toxic barricades, working for Biotronics.
Sangamon rides around the Boston on his bicycle, and on the water in a Zodiac, an inflatable raft with a outboard motor. He sniffs out toxic waste, sometimes literally, and follows the trail back to the source. He hunts down dangerous organic chlorine compounds. With GEE he plugs a dioxin laden sewer in Buffalo with cement, and in New Jersey plugs a underwater diffuser pipe with contraptions made with salad bowls and toilet gaskets.
When he finds PCB contaminated lobsters near Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor, and sees people suffering from chloracne, he fears a toxic catastrophe. He thinks he'll be able to track the pollution to old transformers dumped by Basco and alert the EPA. But it isn't quite that simple. There are goons chasing him in a speedboat, weirdoes bugging his phones, threatening heavy metal fans of a band called Pöyzen Bözyen, and strangely disappearing PCB pollution.
With the help Hank Boone - who some consider an eco-terrorist - girlfriend Debbie and Tanya from GEE, Indian Jim Grandfather, and eccentric genius Kelvin, Sangamon seeks to incriminate Basco as the polluter, discredit the environmental record of presidential hopeful Alvin Pleshy, and reaffirm his own credibility.summary written by
10 Wow! Don't miss it
8-9 Highly recommended
5-6 Mild recommendation
3-4 Take your chances
1-2 Below average; skip it
0 Get out the flamethrower!
U Unfinishable or unreadable
- Skipped or no rating given
Neal Stephenson - Zodiac
Stephenson's wry humor and entertaining writing style makes this an enjoyable read despite the obvious flaws. By far the biggest flaw is the lack of characterization. We don't get to know at all some of the most crucial characters: Debbie (the love interest), Kelvin (who comes out of nowhere to help save the day), and Pleshy (the figurehead villain). To call the development of S.T.'s relationship with Debbie weak is charitable. The plotting is also not great, although I find Stephenson's plotting suspect in general, but compensated for by his other strengths as a writer. The central conflict of the book was resolved much sooner than I expected, leaving the last portion of the novel for assessing blame, which I found hard to care about. Overall, this is a fun but forgettable early effort by a talented writer.What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to