the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘environmentalism

I wrote this review about a year ago for an online ‘zine, figured it couldn’t hurt to repost it here. I’m currently reading Stephenson’s Reamde (posts coming soon! it’s incredible so far!), so  when I eventually say “it was sorta like the pace of Zodiac”, people can know what the heck I’m talking about.  Never read Stephenson because his books are so damn long and weigh a ton? Zodiac is the perfect place to start, as it’s only a few hundred pages long.

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Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson

originally published in 1988, recently reprinted by Subterranean Press.

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Imagine if you could be a superhero. Save people’s lives, keep families safe, make sure large corporations aren’t taking advantage of the little people, do your part to help the world. Sangamon Taylor, who goes by ST, does that for a living. He isn’t a caped or masked crusader, his landlord is about to evict him, the newspapers affectionately refer to him as an ecoterrorist, and he’s no stranger to spending the night in jail. So much for saving the world. Neal Stephenson’s Zodiac is ST’s first person version of his exploits and adventures, and he can be as obnoxious and volatile as the chemicals he rails against.

ST spends his days trolling Boston Harbor looking for signs of pollution such as oily water or dead or dying animals. Pipes spitting out sludge is a dead give away too. His evenings are spent exposing the corporations responsible for the pollution, usually by cementing the pipes shut and listening for who complains. The media loves him, local law enforcement doesn’t know what to do with him, and the corporate thugs wish he would just move someplace far away. Technically ST is employed by an anti-pollution nonprofit called GEE, and it’s a life saver, as donations to GEE are what keep him fed, clothed, and in parts for his fleet of Zodiacs, the small one person inflatable crafts that get him around the harbor. Under the auspices of GEE, he’s able to hire university interns, and gain access to the university labs and chemical analysis tools.

The local repeat offender for corporate pollution is a large company called Basco, run by the wealthy Pleshy family. When Pleshy senior enters national politics, ST knows there will never be a better time to take down Basco. All he needs now is proof. But when you’re dealing with an ever changing body of water that’s seen 200 plus years of pollution and dumping, finding proof of who is responsible for what can be next to impossible.

Smart but poor, ST knows a super cheap way to see what’s happening in the harbor waters is to dissect the creatures who live there, see what’s in their stomachs and what chemicals have built up in their systems. Friends with everyone, it’s easy for ST to get a few sickly looking lobsters from the nets of the local lobster men. If the insides look like something a lobsterman would eat, all is good. But when a yellow oily pus filled lobster sends an intern crying from the lab, ST knows he’s hit contamination gold.

Read the rest of this entry »

  Xulai (Shoo-Lie, rhymes with July. Isn’t that a cool name??) lives as a servant in the household of Duke Justinian and his Tingawan wife Princess Xu-i-Lok. After they were married and the Princess learned she had been cursed, they requested a soul carrier from her Tingawan homeland. Xulai is that soul carrier. Appearing as a child of seven or eight, Xulai’s only use in life is to be with the Princess when she dies (which could be any moment), and then return to Tingawa with the Princess’s soul. In the meantime, Xulai is taught and protected by Precious Wind, who came with her from Tingawa, and Bear, a Tingawan Warrior. Early on, when we first meet Xulai, she is approached by an unusual traveler, Abasio, and his even more unusual talking horse, Blue. Abasio and Blue will prove to be the best part of the story. 

The Princess does die, and she does give her soul (and something else) to Xulai. Tingawa lies across the sea, and it is decided the safest way to get there is to travel to the southern end of the continent to a port city where a Tingawan ship is waiting. It is of the utmost importance that Xulai reach Tingawa. But the roads are dangerous, and on the way they stop at the abbey, which seems more a center of population than a religious center. There is corruption afoot, as the Queen of the realm, Mirami, and her daugher, Alicia, are constantly fighting each other for power. When Precious Wind and Abasio learn they have been betrayed at the abbey, the party continues south, even more cautious than before.

Much of the plot revolves around the journey south and avoiding Mirami, Alicia, and their mentor the Dark Old Man. Xulai may appear as a child, but she is older than she looks. In fact, many of the characters are not what they appear to be. Once Xulai discovers who and what she is, plans must be laid to keep the truth safe. Read the rest of this entry »


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.