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Zodiac: An Eco Thriller
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Zodiac: An Eco Thriller

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  11,585 ratings  ·  440 reviews
Sangaman Taylor is Boston's modern-day Paul Revere, spreading the word from a 40-horsepower Zodiac raft. Embarrassing powerful corporations in highly telegenic ways is the perfect method of making enemies, and Taylor has a collection that would do any rabble-rouser proud.
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published by Subterranean Press (first published April 30th 1988)
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This book revolves around toxic waste being illegally dumped into Boston Harbor. While I was reading it, the water in the fish tank went mysteriously cloudy overnight despite being recently cleaned and our two goldfish who were like ten years old went belly up. So that was kind of creepy.

The first Neal Stephenson book I read was Cryptonomicon and I jumped from there right into The Baroque Cycle and then the brain-busting brilliant behemoth that was Anathem. I loved them all, but saw frequent com
Sangamon Taylor might actually be the love of my life (and, as far as I'm concerned, the fact that he's an emotionally unavailable, fictional character is kind of a win-win). By my metrics of greatness, billing ST (that's what all the cool kids call him) as the “Granola James Bond” undersells him by a long shot.

Employed as a “professional asshole” (his words) by GEE, an environmental activist group in Boston, ST is a chemist by training, a fan of avoiding Boston traffic by taking to its water
If not for the voice of Sangamon Taylor, Neal Stephenson's Zodiac would have been a relatively okay eco-thriller, but the book isn't just the voice of Sangamon Taylor, it IS Sangamon Taylor, and once again Stephenson's ability to create compelling leading men (think Hiro Protagonist in Snow Crash) makes one of his books superior to the pulp it was inspired by.

Sangamon Taylor is Boston Harbor's very own Toxic Avenger. Working for GEE -- a thinly veiled, fictional Greenpeace -- ST spends his days
Duffy Pratt
I'm not sure what I would have thought about this book if it had been by another author, or an author I didn't already know. It's a fun book, and decent in its own right. Have you ever seen pictures of people you knew when they were babies, and tried to scope out the resemblance to their adult appearance. That's sort of what I found myself doing in this book. There are lots of hints and suggestions of the kind of writer Stephenson would become. But standing on its own, this book seems just as mu ...more
Zodiac is described as an eco-thriller, which about sums it up, actually! It certainly is a thriller - I read all 290 or so pages in one (long) night, gripped from the outset. The hero of the story is a chemist working for GEE, a direct action environmental organisation, in its Boston branch. He's out to get the companies dumping toxic waste into the harbour and the rivers and canals that feed into it. He has three company logos on the bows of his inflatable raft with its over-size outboard moto ...more
Andreea Daia
Dear S.T. -

I just finished reading your Zodiac adventures and how I loved them. At first I was a bit confused since I was expecting a science-fiction novel. I know, I know, you did start your memoirs clearly stating that this is an eco-thriller, but I was misled by the GoodReads shelving. Have you seen it? Oof! "Science Fiction," "Horror," even "Fantasy." Although "Cyberpunk" has be the best one given that your colleagues refuse to work in an office with a computer and you use yours only for pr
An early variant of Stephenson's 'Snow Crash' writing style. More down-to-earth plot, set in the present rather than the near-future, but just as much fun. It definitely feels rougher and less polished than either Snow Crash or The Diamond Age, but it's great fun. And the description of trying to cross the street in Boston is worth the purchase price.
Ben Babcock
Every once in a while when I open a box from Subterranean Press, I discover a surprise tucked inside. Such was the case with Zodiac; I received a free surplus ARC of their special edition of this novel. I seldom refuse free books, and of course, it’s Neal Stephenson. So off we go.

Even when attached to a name such as Stephenson’s, a novel that bills itself as an “eco-thriller” does not earn eager anticipation from me. My opinion of thrillers is low in general, and when combined with ecological mo
Sep 27, 2011 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anti-Corporate Libertarians
Zodiac was a bit muddled at points, with a large, mixed cast of eco-terrorists, corporate drones, scientists, and blue-collar Bostonians dropping in and out of the story, but overall it was a fast, exhilarating thrill-ride -- not too dissimilar from riding an actual zodiac.

It was reminiscent in a way to the cable television show Leverage, and if it were the show, it would have broken up nicely into three episodes -- the Swiss Bastards Job in Blue Kills, New Jersey; the Boner Chemicals Job in Bu
I couldn't find what I was looking for on my first visit to the library, so I settled for this because the author had penned one of the other books I was looking for. Glad I picked it up. Written in the first person, this yarn follows the self-proclaimed Toxic Spider-man on his crusade against giant companies who love to pollute the Northeast. A fast read with a sarcastic voice, and some decent science to back it up. Guns, germs and mayhem.
Allan Dyen-shapiro
Early Neal Stephenson. The reason to read this book is the voice of the protagonist. Sangamon Taylor is a chemist and an environmental activist. I've read he is based around a person Stephenson knew in college; the rich characterization seems very authentic to me.

This is also an interesting time period for that sort of person; the book came out in 1988. This is a time at which the dinosaur chemical companies were moving toward greener chemistries and were stuck with numerous lawsuits and other a
Bryan Glosemeyer
Well, I'm an unabashed Neal Stephenson fan, there's no getting around that. And for anyone else who's a big fan I'd definitely recommend the book, if nothing else to see the basics of his style in a still very formative period.

The is the earliest book of his that I've read. And since the last book I read by him was his most recent REAMDE, it was even more of an obvious chance to observe how his style has developed.

but yada yada yada.... right?

So ok, let's get past the fandom for a moment.

This is
Before Stephenson got into the habit of fashioning entire techno-historical realities to fool around in, he wrote this odd little eco-thriller. It's about environmental activism before the green boom in the late 90's and early 2000's, when environmentally concerned types were usually just one or two ideological steps away from being misanthropic survivalists, obsessive self-taught chemical engineers, or wanted fugitives, and were hardly seen as people with a broad interest in constructive human ...more
Holy Moly, a Stephenson book with a satisfactory ending! Well knock me over with a feather!

Seriously, though: this is more about the environment, and activism, than technology (speaking in the context of this book as a Neal Stephenson novel.) So it's a little bit less appealing. Though still sciencey, and also really gross and completely terrifying. We are all going to die of cancer or something else even more horrible. I'm glad I don't live in Boston.

Really seriously, though: Zodiac is about a
Jeremy Conley
This is early Stephenson, so don't judge the rest of his work by this effort.
The basics: toxic waste fighting James Bond type takes on big chem.
The good: fun period piece from the late 80's, excellent use of setting for people who know Boston, pretty decent introduction to toxic waste issues and chemistry, and some nascent hints of the Stephensonian high-adventure that will become is trademark in later books.
The bad: it's hard to like the main character S.T.. He's just a really arrogant assho
Neal Stephenson is a talented and multi-dimensional writer. Not only can he pen science fiction classics (e.g. Snowcrash) but he can also write enjoyable thrillers (e.g. Zodiac, the Eco-Thriller). No doubt about it...this Stephenson guy tells one hell of a yarn!

Republicans without a sense of humor should beware...this is NOT the book for you! It is unapologetically liberal in regards to the damage being done to our environment by big business. In this day and age when many liberals (I am talking
The second novel by the great writer. It was interesting to read Zodiac alongside with Reamde. In both books you can recognize Stephenson, but those separates an abyss: in former he is young, radical and daredevil; in latter - mature and experienced.

Early Stephenson is also very good. Zodiac is one of those rather rare books on ecological theme and it's well-done. Captivating plot; vivid and exaggerated characters; early Neal's brand humour; lot of information on environmental issues.

To conclude
This is the second time I read this book, and I loved it even more this time around. Sagamon Taylor is a hilariously funny protagonist, and I love the way Stephenson sends him out on an all-or-nothing rampage against corporate polluters. This book came early in Stephenson's career, and suffers a little bit from the problems he had in Snow Crash and Diamond Age. I did feel like he was trying to pack TOO much into the book at times. Sometimes you can feel a little whipsawed just trying to follow t ...more
Dec 02, 2012 Alissa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alissa by: Kerry Hosken
While I liked Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash, I liked Zodiac even better! Zodiac is a fun romp through the adventures of Sangamon Taylor, a pompous, crazy, monkey-wrenching, intrigue-savvy environmentalist. During his adventures he deals with toxic waste, the mafia, satanists and islands of trash in and around the Boston harbor and the whole time you are pulled along at breakneck speeds just as if you were on the back of a zodiac raft with him.

It's true that this book was published in the late 1980
A much better take on a Crichton-esque plotline. Compared to Crichton's pot-boilers this one was much better paced, much less predictable, and had lots more random, hacker-ish mentality science thrown in. I guess that's what happens when a computer geek and nerd-among-nerds writes this kind of plot versus Crichton (a physician).

The book's structure was a little rough in places, and the copy-editor was asleep at the wheel--I can see that this was where Stephenson was still getting practice at wri
One of Stephenson’s earliest works, Zodiac provides an exciting romp, displaying a conflict between environmentalists and ivory tower corporatists. The book is consistently labeled an ‘eco thriller’, and after finishing it, I find myself consistently using that label when describing Zodiac in bite-size format.

Stephenson’s earliest works all have similar elements: quirky names for the protagonist, an edge of satire, and subtle allegory. These items are why I consider Stephenson a gem in whatever
Michael Murdoch

Zodiac, the brilliant second novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the The Baroque Cycle and Snow Crash, is now available from Grove Press. Meet Sangamon Taylor, a New Age Sam Spade who sports a wet suit instead of a trench coat and prefers Jolt from the can to Scotch on the rocks. He knows about chemical sludge the way he knows about evil—all too intimately. And the toxic trail he follows leads to some high and foul places. Before long Taylor’s house is bombed, his every move foll

Stuart Langridge

Zodiac, the brilliant second novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the The Baroque Cycle and Snow Crash, is now available from Grove Press. Meet Sangamon Taylor, a New Age Sam Spade who sports a wet suit instead of a trench coat and prefers Jolt from the can to Scotch on the rocks. He knows about chemical sludge the way he knows about evil—all too intimately. And the toxic trail he follows leads to some high and foul places. Before long Taylor’s house is bombed, his every m

Jordan Anderson
I wanted to like this book...and for about 150 pages I did. It was kind of funny, had just enough action, and just enough science to keep me interested. Stephenson even made the whole PCB/pollution thing kind of make sense with some well written and well placed metaphors.

Those other 158 pages though? Eh, I've read better. First there was the main character who was a jerk and self professed "asshole". Nothing to like about him. Then there were the other slew of characters who were so cookie-cutte
On the cover, off to the side, is the phrase "eco thriller" and that's an excellent label for this action packed adventure dealing with PCB's in Boston Harbor.

As mentioned by the author in his acknowledgments, the protagonist is an asshole. While not an anti-hero, his behavior is that of someone whose inter personal relationships serve only to help him accomplish his current task. Stepping on toes and hurting feelings are just not things that bother him. The kind of guy who never did learn how t
Zodiac, my second Neal Stephenson, didn't really deliver the pure enjoyment that I received from the other Stephenson book I recently finished, Snow Crash. However, if I hadn't just finished that one, and held the next Stephenson book I read to such a high standard, I probably would have rated Zodiac higher.

Set sometime in the late 80s/early 90s in Boston, Zodiac is about an "eco-terrorist" named Sangmon Taylor (S.T. for short). S.T. works for a company called GEE, discovering which huge compani
This is one of Stephenson's early books, and although I enjoyed it pretty well it was in some ways just too much of a good thing. It was kind of kitchen sink type of approach, throwing in a bit of everything. Although I've heard much about Stephonson's later books and how much people love them, I've never had a strong urge to pick any of them up because of having read Zodiac. It was good, but not outstanding.
Tim Niland
Sangamon Taylor is an environmental activist and a "professional pain in the ass" for companies who pollute the the environment, especially in his home base of Boston Harbor. With his group GEE, he performs direct action campaigns for the press to gain coverage of environmental issues. But when he is framed in a plot to kill one of the worst environmental offenders who also happens to be a presidential candidate, he must run for his life, not only to clear his name, but to divert an environmenta ...more
I'll chalk this up to my hefty Neal Stephenson bias, but I enjoyed this one. Oh, it's got its problems, for sure. There are a ton of characters introduced, dropped, then reintroduced who function more like set pieces than anything else, it's got a meandering first third (something I didn't even say about Anathem), and it's pretty obvious that Stephenson is still trying to find his voice.

But at its core, it's pure Stephenson: adventure hero nerdy male lead, a badass scientific narrative, and, whe
I really wanted to enjoy this book as I do like Neal Stephenson, but this book just didn't do it for me. I really got into it for about fifty or so odd pages, between the time the soupy lobsters were found and S.T. was flung from his boat, and then it became dull again.

I think part of it is the pacing issues. Some parts were just hurriedly skipped over, and certain other parts didn't make sense. I found many of the characters got muddled together, and I had a difficult time picking them all apar
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Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known primarily for his science fiction works in the postcyberpunk genre with a penchant for explorations of society, mathematics, cryptography, currency, and the history of science. He also writes non-fiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired Magazine, and has worked part-time as an advisor for Blue Origin, a company (funded by Jeff ...more
More about Neal Stephenson...
Snow Crash Cryptonomicon The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer Anathem Reamde

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