Toxic Philip Marlowe.
It's hard to like any other character than S.T. in the book as it's told first person. That said, the character is a bit of an a**. But a funny one -- scrappy, too smart for his own good, egotistical, flawed, and almost always right. Or possibly always almost right.
The narration for this book was SO BAD I had a hard time listening to it for more than 20 minutes at a time. The narrator. Simply. Did not know. How to use. Punctuation. Very odd inflection patterns that added no meaning whatsoever to the sentences. It baffles me that this guy was actually hired to do this, and has probably done a lot of other books as well. I actually had to rewind a few times to make sure I got the meaning clear, and I have read this book myself at least 5 times. It was so irritating, I actually considered narrating the book myself and making my own personal recording to listen to. It's a real shame, too, because the book is terrific.
Not really a "moves you" kind of book. More exciting stuff, with good chase scenes (the Zodiac/Cigarette chase through nighttime Boston Harbor is a standout) and more than usual brain candy for what amounts to a noir-styled crime thriller. Also, having lived in Boston and its environs for several years, I enjoyed his detailed knowledge of the location, descriptions of the neighborhoods, and use of the geography to illustrate points or move the story along.
This is early Neal Stephenson, and it lacks what many fans of his work now seem to expect: a BIG IDEA that the story explains and works through as it progresses. It's true that his best books take unlikely ideas for novels (code-breaking, rational thought processes/logic + quantum manipulation of personal narratives, information propagation, virtual reality, a complex children's book/toy) and turn them into compelling and somehow edifying stories. However, this book feels just as "Stephensonian" to me as his later, more complex works, because it is at its root about someone who knows and understands something that other people don't. This person then acts in what to them is a totally rational way because of that knowledge, but seems crazy to other people. The thing is, what this person knows is usually something very geeky and specific having to do with something scientific in nature or related to how information is transmitted (codes, the internet, global shipping systems, etc.). In other words, this person has special knowledge because he or she has a *different way of knowing* than everybody else. Every Neal Stephenson novel has one or more characters like that at its core. Zodiac is no different.
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