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Michael A. Lewis
The Environmeddlers
US Trade Paperback POD
ISBN 978-1-105-62751-4
Publication Date: 07-12-2012
264 Pages; $16.50
Date Reviewed: 09-25-2012
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2012

Index:  General Fiction  Science Fiction

The world is changing faster thank we think and generally, at least, not for the better. Every day brings another news report of dire environmental change, whether it is the smallest North Polar Icecap ever recorded or a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. One might well wonder where the crusaders have gone. Richard Nixon is looking more and more like our greenest president. That can't be a good sign. Edward Abbey left this plane of existence twenty-three years ago. Monkey-wrenching seems well-intentioned but quaint, and we're not far from a tree-sitting reality TV show. (TLC, that's MY idea!)

We can be thankful then for 'The Environmeddlers' by Michael A Lewis, who, I can fully disclose, used to work at KUSP where my radio show is broadcast. That made it much easier for him to bring his book to my severely shattered attention, and then, only months after it had come out. That said, here's why you should read it: with 'The Environmeddlers,' Lewis effectively and entertainingly brings the literature of underground environmental activism into the 21st century. The result is a paranoid but positive-leaning thriller about aging activists who make use of the latest technology to bring a halt to that same technology. Yes, there's a touch of Escher's staircase to the proceedings.

Clovis is the aging activist who finds himself drawn into the latest environmental shenanigans by a cast of characters who often prove not to be who they say they are. Lewis does well with Clovis, who provides the sort of grounded perspective we need to bring us into the shadier side of the those who are acting our best interests, if not always their own. Understanding just who these people are and what their motives might be provides a nice pull to the narrative. Lewis is kind enough to offer us the Cowboy in this mix, a sort of sage who overlooks the proceedings with an air of mystery.

Driving action and keeping the pages turning are paranoia-inducing perceptions of surveillance that will have you unplugging your appliances and wrapping your battery-less cell phone in a lead-lined pouch. As the two threads converge, Lewis develops new concepts of the fight against technology; theme and character have to adapt in the presence of the new plot elements. And perhaps it will prove that fighting fire, as it were, with fire is not the best strategy.

With 'The Environmeddlers,' Michael Lewis sets up a very interesting parallel; it's a literary update of a genre about technology and its dissenters that have both themselves been updated. Lewis may use technology to write about its undoing, but it's the ancient power of storytelling that proves to be the most powerful force for preserving nature.

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