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3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  13,301 Ratings  ·  495 Reviews
Sangamon Taylor's 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 followed, he's adopted by reservat ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 308 pages
Published July 1st 1995 by Spectra (first published April 30th 1988)
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The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. TolkienDune by Frank HerbertA Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
SciFi and Fantasy Book Club Bookshelf
120th out of 211 books — 231 voters
Cryptonomicon by Neal StephensonSnow Crash by Neal StephensonThe Diamond Age by Neal StephensonAnathem by Neal StephensonReamde by Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson
5th out of 13 books — 18 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 18, 2014 Kemper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 09, 2016 Mara rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mara by: Kemper
Sangamon Taylor just might 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 waterw
Sep 21, 2009 Brad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: intrigue, ecological
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
Jan 18, 2012 Duffy Pratt rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
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
Mar 27, 2009 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Max Nemtsov
Jul 16, 2015 Max Nemtsov rated it it was amazing
«Зодиак», вы удивитесь, — чтение, близкое к идеальному. Главный герой, он же рассказчик — человек знающий, что делает и что делать (мы уже давно для себя поняли, что профессионалы за работой в книгах — это лучше, чем распиздяи за бездельем; особенно если автор знает, о чем говорит; у Пинчона это освежало, здесь — тоже приятно). Мало того — он лихой балагур и отличный рассказчик (опять необходимый дисклеймер: я не знаю, что там в русском переводе творится). А главное, что помимо сюжета — вполне т ...more
Jeremy Conley
Jun 03, 2010 Jeremy Conley rated it it was ok
Shelves: gen-fiction
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
Feb 25, 2009 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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.
Sarah Anne
Omg, I need more! Is there a sequel? Who knew an eco thriller could be so absolutely amazing!
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 really liked it  ·  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
Matthew Ciarvella
Dec 20, 2015 Matthew Ciarvella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Although this is one of Stephenson's earliest works, it remains an excellent and enjoyable book and if I say it's one of his best, it's only to demonstrate the strength of this work as opposed to criticizing later ones.

All the traits that Stephenson would earn his bones on are present here; the whip-smart discussions about interesting scientific topics, an incredibly intelligent and skilled protagonist who, despite his smarts, isn't above getting things wrong and making mistakes. True, the Steph
Oct 30, 2008 Brett rated it really liked it
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.
Jennifer Seyfried
Oct 30, 2015 Jennifer Seyfried rated it liked it
This is billed as an eco-thriller and that is an apt description. There is science-y stuff here, but it is alternated with car chases, boat chases, explosions, murders, all of your standard suspense thriller building blocks. I would say it was easily 60/40 or better in favor of action over science, and I might have given it more stars for more science. I was just expecting more science, and I don't read a lot of "thrillers." But it's an excellent way to sneak in some science and hopefully get pe ...more
Richard Knight
Feb 20, 2016 Richard Knight rated it did not like it
I hate this book. It's mostly the characters, who are obnoxious and corny. Despite the author's attempt to give life to the story through its first person perspective, the protagonist is annoying and the rest of the cast is dull. I knew within five pages that I'd be annoyed throughout the entire story, and I was right. I just didn't think I'd be so bored. And confused. Did I mentioned confused? The plot was simple enough to follow, but something about the writing itself just kept me from getting ...more
Allan Dyen-Shapiro
Apr 15, 2014 Allan Dyen-Shapiro rated it really liked it
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
Feb 05, 2013 Gendou rated it really liked it
The main character and narrator of this book is one awesome dude. He's an ecological activist who fights big corporations that pollute the environment with chemical waste. The bad guys are unbelievably bad, which is sometimes a good thing, and other times, not so much. For example, they have a diabolical way of trying to save their own asses, which end up getting them into worse trouble, only after some clever detective work on the protagonist's part. This was cool. But the shoot out with paint ...more
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was ok
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
Dec 06, 2011 Roger rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Sep 03, 2012 Jurgen_i rated it it was amazing
Shelves: eco
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
Apr 04, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pleasure-reading
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 really liked it
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
Mar 04, 2009 Rob rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-f
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
Andrew Anderson
Mar 08, 2015 Andrew Anderson rated it really liked it
Like a cross between The Monkey Wrench Gang and Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, set in 80's Boston drenched in sludge.
In Zodiac, legendary science fiction author Neal Stephenson's second novel, enivronmental activist Sangamon "S.T." Taylor stumbles onto a plot with potentially catastrophic implications on a global scale.

In an attempt to cover up illegal dumping of toxic waste in Boston Harbor decades ago, one of the major polluters who is frequently in S.T.'s sights has developed a microorganism that eats environmental poisons. Unfortunately, with one of their executives now running for president and the growi
Meghan Fidler
Zodiac's main protagonist, Sangamon Taylor--the "Granola James Bond"-- is a delightfully developed character. Demonstrating Stephenson's artistry, Taylor is a deeply flawed and incredibly admirable individual: in short, a 'real' person. Taylor's relationships with other humans--especially women--angered me enough that I had to call him names by writing in the margin of the book (in counting my reactions to his relationship with Debbie, he is a dick once, an asshole twice, and an ASSHOLE once. Th ...more
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
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SciFi and Fantasy...: Zodiac - Final Thoughts **Spoilers** 3 17 May 07, 2015 06:26PM  
  • Heavy Weather
  • All Tomorrow's Parties (Bridge, #3)
  • Antarctica
  • Roadmarks
  • The Terminal State (Avery Cates, #4)
  • Halting State (Halting State, #1)
  • Headcrash
  • Market Forces
  • The Exile Kiss
  • Three Days to Never
Neal Stephenson is the author of Reamde, Anathem, and the three-volume historical epic the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World), as well as Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
More about Neal Stephenson...

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“If you've put yourself in a position where someone has to see you in order for you to be safe - to see you, and to give a fuck - you've already blown it.” 16 likes
“I had to ride slow because I was taking my guerrilla route, the one I follow when I assume that everyone in a car is out to get me. My nighttime attitude is, anyone can run you down and get away with it. Why give some drunk the chance to plaster me against a car? That's why I don't even own a bike light, or one of those godawful reflective suits. Because if you've put yourself in a position where someone has to see you in order for you to be safe--to see you, and to give a fuck--you've already blown it... We had a nice ride through the darkness. On those bikes we were weak and vulnerable, but invisible, elusive, aware of everything within a two-block radius.” 4 likes
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