Zodiac by Neal Stephenson

Buy it at Amazon.com

The 150-word Review: You might think that an “eco-thriller,” written in 1988, about environmentalists and toxic waste in the Boston Harbor might seem dated. Sadly, it does not. The Red Sox may have evolved from “hapless” to “mighty” and the media may have shifted from PCBs to CO2, but when I came across Zodiac by Neal Stephenson, the premise felt extremely relevant.

Sangamon Taylor is an eco-vigilante (equal parts Jack Bauer and MacGyver), a one-man army taking on evil corporations with single-minded ingenuity. Eschewing bombs in favor of a souped-up inflatable boat and a gas chromatograph, he uses scientific evidence and media savvy to achieve his ends. When local lobsters register catastrophic PCB levels, Sangamon uncovers an audacious toxic crime that could turn Boston Harbor into a “harbor of death.” While Sangamon Taylor is not his most compelling hero/protagonist, Stephenson creates an engaging novel, where hard science becomes the star of the show.

You will enjoy this book if you are a fan of: dust-head heavy metal Satanists, daredevil Zodiac maneuvers, Duck Squeezers, ungodly stink bombs, mediapathic escapades, nighttime bicycle jaunts, Greenpeace, sewer diving, benzene rings and covalent chlorine, cigarette boats, and nitrous oxide.

Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, Sangamon Taylor is modeled after environmental chemist Marco Kaltofen.

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Neal Stephenson’s New Novel in September

Just ran across a tip from the cool kids that a new Neal Stephenson novel will be released this September. The novel will be titled, “Anathem.” This means my buddy, jdlrm, has until then to write his 150-word review of “Snow Crash” or I am repossessing the 20 pounds of paper (aka “The Baroque Cycle”) I gave him two Christmases ago.

Lev Grossman got the scoop on “Anathem” in March. Please read his post here. Here is a little snippet of the catalog copy to wet your whistle:

“Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians-sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable “saecular” world that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, world wars and climate change.”

Hmmm… an “illiterate, irrational, unpredictable ‘seacular’ world.” Maybe I am on to something with this whole “unliterate” angle.

Most importantly, Eos Books, is giving all of us a chance to “Ask Neal Stephenson About Anathem.” I agree with crazymonk’s question asking if there will be a reappearance of Enoch Root. What a great character.

I will definitely pre-order this. I’m all moist with geeky dew.