Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Zodiac, Neal Stephenson

Title: Zodiac
Author: Neal Stephenson
Rating: Good

Back in January two people - galactic_dev and UncleDon - responded to my request for recommended works by Neal Stephenson. They both liked Zodiac and it eventually came into my possession. Thus, this review.

The writing is light and breezy, which is a distraction from the dark events at the core of the novel. It's called an "eco-thriller" on the copy I have, and I guess that pretty well describes it. The main character is a member of an ecology group - probably patterned after Greenpeace - and he hits all kinds of trouble when a project he's working on finds evidence that some really bad things are going on in Boston harbor. Some of the local corporations are still dumping nasty stuff into the water, and covering up for past misdeeds. It's complicated, but you can track it as events unfold.

Originally published in 1988, Zodiac holds up pretty well over time. That's actually rather depressing, since it means that the issues it addresses are still real too. Anyway, so long as you don't stop to ask questions like "why doesn't he use a cell phone?" the story is just fine, and it's a roller coaster.

My only previous experience with Stephenson was Snow Crash which I enjoyed at the time, but which I recall has some plot issues that I (as a software engineer) thought were fairly significant. This one has fewer such plot holes. Perhaps because it is not in my area of expertise, or perhaps because the subject matter is closer to the author's own expertise. I honestly don't know.

In any event, Zodiac is an enjoyable read. Recommended for a few hours of relaxation at some point.
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