Zodiac (novel)

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Stephenson Book Zodiac.png
US version cover
Author Neal Stephenson
Cover artist Bruce Jensen
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction
Published 1998 (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Media type Print (paperback)
Pages 283 pp (first edition, paperback)
ISBN 0-87113-181-1 (first edition, paperback)
OCLC 17260967
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 19
LC Class PS3569.T3868 Z39 1988
Preceded by The Big U
Followed by Snow Crash

Zodiac: An Eco-Thriller (1988) is Neal Stephenson's second novel, which tells the story of an environmentalist, Sangamon Taylor, uncovering a conspiracy involving industrialist polluters in Boston Harbor. The "Zodiac" of the title refers to the brand of inflatable motor boats the hero uses to get around the city efficiently. His opponents attempt to frame him as an ecoterrorist.

The protagonist is inspired[1] by environmental chemist Marco Kaltofen.[2] Taylor is a recreational user of nitrous oxide, justifying his choice of drug by the eponymous Sangamon's principle: "the simpler the molecule, the better the drug".

In the novel, Taylor is a chemist working for GEE, a fictional environmental activism group which stages both protests and direct actions plugging toxic waste pipes. Taylor becomes involved with Basco Industries, a fictional corporation which produced Agent Orange and is a major supplier of organic chlorine compounds. Basco experiments with genetic engineering to develop chemical producing microbes, driving Taylor's efforts to expose their crimes and preserve Boston Harbor.

A number of the later events of the novel take place on Boston Harbor's Spectacle Island which at the time of publication was almost entirely composed of garbage. In the story it is frequented by drugged-out and reputedly Satanic groupies of the "two-umlaut" heavy metal music band, Pöyzen Böyzen, who are too intoxicated with angel dust to realize they are poisoning themselves with the toxic waste that was dumped there.

Release details[edit]


  1. ^ "Ecology sleuth is local, global", Boston Globe, July 8, 2007, "Tom Carpenter, nuclear oversight program director with the Government Accountability Project, said that soon after he and Kaltofen visited the towns, authorities agreed to begin evacuating residents. Carpenter hired Kaltofen after reading a 1988 novel, 'Zodiac,' an eco-thriller about a guerrilla-style environmental activist trying to stop the pollution of Boston Harbor. The author, Neal Stephenson, a neighbor of Carpenter's, attended Boston University with Kaltofen and dedicated the book to him. Kaltofen brushed the book off as a work of fiction, but Carpenter said he sees many similarities between the fictional protagonist and Kaltofen, from his sense of humor to his creativity. 'He comes up with smart options that sometimes reveal inadequacies in government systems,' said Carpenter."
  2. ^ "Marco Kaltofen Biography". November 8, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-06.