Verdict: WATERSHED is skilfully-composed, perfectly-paced, insanely bizarre and definitely worth a read.
For Raquel – phone-addict, lost soul, and one of the main characters in Colin Dodds’ WATERSHED – being post-coitally ejected from the belly of a light aircraft (albeit with what is hopefully a functional parachute) is just the start of her problems. From the moment she touches down in the desert in front of a beat-up truck driven by a technology-averse snake breeder, things only get more complicated.
As you might surmise from the somewhat colorful opening, the world of WATERSHED is a vibrant one, packed to the gills with absurd and yet oddly-believable detail – everything from a September 11th memorial service that involves a full-scale recreation of the original terrorist attack, to a man who gets off on being locked in a coffin with a bag full of cats. It’s some feat that Dodds manages to make all this and more seem not just possible, but vivid and tangible too.
As for the story that weaves its way through this hectic, cyber-punkish world… well, it’s every bit as eclectic as the setting it’s grounded in. There are elements of something like a romance, which give flavor to a full-bodied techno-thriller garnished with some sly social commentary. It’s worth mentioning that the latter of these is done with enough skill that it provoked not a single mental eye-roll during the book’s entire five-hundred-odd page overture. Now that’s good satire.
Both in terms of setting and of plot, it’s safe to say that WATERSHED is a thoroughly well-mixed bag. But, much to my delight, the variety never feels jarring – it just feels like a hell of a good story, told by someone who knows how to write. It is by turns fast-paced, strange, screamingly funny and tender. That’s a lot of different tonal strands, but Dodds at no point loses control of any of them. This novel isn’t weird for the sake of being weird – it’s not vying for attention or acting out just to get some laughs. It’s the real deal.
I’d even go so far as to recommend WATERSHED to people who don’t normally read science fiction or thrillers. It’s such a unique and enjoyable blend that it manages to be greater than any of its constituent parts. Add to that the seamless storytelling and the genuinely-smart hints of satire, and it’s a strong contender to be one of the most interesting books you’ll read this year.
~Krishan Coupland for IndieReader