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    Review of ZODIAC by Neal Stephenson (see his website)


    Grove Press, August 2007 (First printing, 1988)

    Sangamon Taylor (ST) never has to worry about his job getting boring. He spends his life going after the companies that are dumping toxic chemicals into the water supply around Boston--and companies have been using Boston's harbor for waste disposal for centuries. Things get weird, though, when he discovers a huge concentration of an especially dangerous chemical, only to find that the entire seabed floor has been cleaned of it a couple of days later. There's no way an army of deep-sea scrubbers went down and cleaned things up, so what is going on.

    ST might have had a chance to find the truth, but he's set up by executives from one of the dumping companies, framed as a terrorist, and sent on the run. That he happens to injest some of the poisons from the water he was investigating makes him that much slower to react. Still, when he finally learns the truth, he realizes that the potential for real disaster is even more dramatic than he had imagined.

    ZODIAC is an early work by author Neal Stephenson (see more reviews of novels by Stephenson) and it lacks some of the richness of say, THE DIAMOND AGE. Still, Stephenson does an excellent job combining the adventure, science, and weird characters that are trademarks of his work. ST is an engaging protagonist. With a moral code that is more flexible than most, but that keeps the focus on the big things, ST keeps going no matter what the corporations throw at him.

    We've come a long way in our ecological awareness since 1988 when this book was first published. Unfortunately, the corporate denial machines, the public's unwillingness to listen until they can no longer ignore the obvious, and the economic disaster that results from allowing public airways and waterways to be used for waste disposal without cost, linger on two decades after this novel was written.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 8/27/07

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