Monday, May 19, 2014
Zipping around an unsafe harbor
It's only on this reading (probably my seventh or eighth time through) of Zodiac that I'm beginning to realize how much I really like the book. I'm a bit irritated because so far it's the only book in my Stephenson project that I can't directly connect to all of the others, but I guess that's made up for by how much fun I had reading it.
In an odd way the surliness of the narrator (who describes himself as a professional asshole and who is employed in this capacity by a Greenpeace-like organization) and his dry, scientific attitude are the best advertisements I've ever seen for the green movement.
The book is all goofy action and a ramping trajectory that explodes into an intense and overwhelming climax (just like every other Stephenson book I've read this month) but Zodiac is relaxingly simple at its heart - it's just a book about a guy who is hard to get along with but who's trying to do his best anyway.
It also takes place in the least fantastic and arguably most dystopian universe of all of Stephenson's work - Boston Harbor in 1987. The contemptuous and queasy descriptions of harbor pollutants and mountains of garbage no only helps to hammer home the message that "There's a harbor out here, it's dirty" but also makes a sickeningly real backdrop for mostly sickeningly plausible drama.
There are, of course, deep messages that can be found in the novel but mostly you walk away from it feeling like you've had a good time skimming along on the surface. You can choose your depth with each reading have some fun no matter which way you go.
It's probably clear by now that I think almost everyone should read almost everything but the people I really want to recommend this book to are Stephenson fans who are so quick to dismiss it. That, and I want to ask them all a question: what the fuck is wrong with you?
Stephenson, Neal. Zodiac. Grove Press. New York: New York. 1988.