Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson, is a great book…at the beginning. The place is established, the headquarters for a group of environmental crusaders. The protagonist (Sangamon Taylor) is in a fine situation: with his friends, fighting for the environment, and having fun thwarting the evil heads of corporations. I am happy to stay here and read about his adventures. But of course, the drama must be amped up. I’m fine with that, but instead of being amped up a bit, it was poured out, like when you hit the ketchup bottle and it all comes out. The problem? Baddies, and too many of them. At the beginning, the evil corporations and the druggy satanist teens were the only ones who hated Sangamon. A good amount of baddies. But then, the FBI starts hating him for being a “terrorist.” Then he must go on the run, and drama ensues. I was very annoyed when he went on the run, because I was getting used to him and his friends leading a semi-normal life. But then, books aren’t written about semi-normal lives, are they. (Somebody should do that! Get on it…people at school, Mom, Dad, and other relatives…oh, I’ll just do it.) So anyway, it gets scary, violent, and also pretty drunken. Of course, something I haven’t thought about yet is the completely unnecessary romance. Again, it feels like “Uh…I guess I need some romance. No problem, I’ll just add a non-offensive, boring, and beautiful love interest that makes him guilty and less of a complete HERO! Perfect.”
Still, the characters are pretty good. Sangamon is still ultra-hero-man, despite his slight drug abuse and romantic unreliability. Why did he flip the rich guys on boats the bird at the end? Just another thing to make him cooler and less perfect. It didn’t really work on me, as you can tell. He still saved everyone instead of being a coward and hiding out in Canada, risking his life. However, he has a nice sense of humor. The crazy man who made the “bugs” is a good villain: not perfect, not perfectly evil. I do have trouble keeping track of everyone: there are many not much mentioned characters who are then mentioned on a first name basis, confusing me. The characters are simply okay, not great.
However, the humor is better than in Anathem. It partly redeems the book. The answering machine calls before Taylor goes on the run are very funny. For example: *beep* Dude, there’s a big @#%&-ing bomb in your basement! Get out, now. *beep*
So yeah, Zodiac isn’t great, but it’s still a good, short little read. Funny little dose of enviro-sci-fi.