Book Review: Zodiac

Posted on Jul 10, 2008
Sangamon Taylor works for an organization in Boston called the GEE. He has a background in chemistry and an intolerance for the illegal dumping of chemicals by industry. He cruises around Boston harbour on his 40hp Zodiac raft, checking drain pipes for contaminants. He tracks the contaminants through the sewers to the offending companies and, stops the by whatever means are necessary. Sometimes this means alerting the police, other times it means clogging the sewers near their plant with cement and alerting the press of a chemical spill in the area.

Sangamon Taylor is a drug-abusing, beer-drinking, self-proclaimed toxic spiderman. He understands science and hates it when people like Green Peace hippies dilute the cause of environmentalism with paranoid pseudo-science talk. Sangamon takes a different approach... a more direct approach. He catches companies red-handed and uses the evidence to get them shut down.

His tactics seem to work well, until he notices a mysterious PCB contamination in Boston harbour. He also notices some of his lobster-fishing friends have been contracting a strange illness lately. Encounters with a deranged geneticist, satanic heavy metal fans, evil corporation goons and his Native American allies mark the rest of the story until Sangamon uncovers the truth about what is going on in the harbour.

Snow Crash is probably Stephenson's best known work, but Zodiac is in my opinion, a better book. It has the same fast paced action sequences and suspenseful writing style, but a more solid, believable plot. The main character, Sangamon Taylor, was more developed and more realistic than Hiro Protagonist was in Snow Crash.

The chemistry aspect of the plot was also carefully thought out and researched. Nothing offended my existing knowledge of science like the main plot of Snow Crash did. I also felt that the plot in Zodiac was more directed and planned out. I think Stephenson knew exactly how it would end before he started writing, as opposed to Snow Crash which seemed to be changing direction as it was written.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the environment, chemistry, biology or just general SF fans.

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Mike at Chance Cove, NL - photo by Angelina Friskney,