21 December 2007
If Tom Robbins wrote a Clancy novel under the influence of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Crying of Lot 49, & Silent Spring
Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988
He considers himself a "Toxic Spiderman," the media refer to him as the "Granola James Bond," and the blurb on the back of the book describes protagonist Sangamon Taylor as a "New Age Sam Spade." One thing he ain't, unfortunately, is a well-developed character with family, friends, etc. Amazingly enough, this lack of character development doesn't hurt the rollicking story one whit. In fact, from the first page, the reader is on a thrilling Zodiac ride around the toxic Boston Harbor, into which something a little nastier than tea is being dumped.
Add regular substance use (typically, but not always, following Sangamon's Principle that "the simpler the molecule, the better the drug"), a Satanic heavy metal band, a handful of bigwig corporate criminals, Taylor's penchant for the media-savvy "invironmintle" spectacle and noir-ish first person narration, and Stephenson's gift for brilliant one liners, and you get an intelligent, fun novel that somehow perfectly captures the transitional period of the late 1980s. Basically, think Tom Robbins writing a Tom Clancy novel under the influence of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Crying of Lot 49, and Silent Spring, and you'll still be way off, but close enough to enjoy the ride.
(This review was originally written on January 18, 2007.)