Neal Stephenson loves boats, that’s for sure. In my least generous mood I would call this novel the dry-run (har har because it all takes place in water and on boats) a kind of dry-run for both Cryptonomicon and a lot of Snow Crash. That’s not to say it’s a whole lot like either one of those per se. But the boats here remind me a lot of the ways in which boats play into both of those novels, and the narrator here reminds me of the contemporary protagonist of Cryptonomicon.
It’s book all its own though, and feels very much of its time: 1980s eco-warrior versus toxic sludge. It does a good job of a) not falling into both-sidsing eco-“terrorism” that ends up being frustratingly and offensively pro-corporation and b) setting down the stakes and working through those differences.
It has the same kinds of Neal Stephenson digressions that I think are key to your loving or hating his writing…similar to the discussions you get about proper ways to eat breakfast cereal in the opening chapters of Cryptonomicon, you get discussions about bikes and computers and other everyday use kinds of discussion.
It’s about a professional corporate who is working to expose corporations dumping toxins into waterways. He finds out that a corporation is planning to use a toxin killing bacteria (like the coming oil eating ones) to clean up a specific kind of free radical they’ve sending into the water except this one has the possibility of accidentally killing on life on earth if unleashed.
It remind me, tonally, a lot of early David Foster Wallace in that way of predicting great things to come while feeling limited, but full of promise.