bn~ Book Review: Watershed by Colin Dodds
The teaser to Colin Dodds new novel “Watershed” reads:
“Burning towers, prostitutes in parachutes, and brave young men and women hiding from wireless signals. The future’s about to be born, but who will change the diapers?
WATERSHED is the story of a troubled, pregnant woman, and the two men—a snake dealer with a sideline in secret messages and a billionaire living under a false name—who vie for her. As their struggle takes them through a near-future America of anti-technology enclaves and illegal hospitals, where stockbrokers moonlight as assassins, nurses procure obscure pleasures, a deeper and deadlier mystery emerges.”
bn~ Review of Watershed by Colin Dodds
The “Watershed” teaser promises action and intrigue, and indeed the work delivers in the initial premise by literally introducing two of the primary protagonists/antagonists in a rather perverse interpretation of the “Mile-High Club” –setting the book off on a brisk pace that mixes initial exposition with snapshots of the central characters that stick in the mind. It is important to point out that “Watershed” builds off of a storyline first explored in his 2014 novel, “Windfall”, and although the tech-dystopia that was crafted in the prior effort is laid out here independently through the new storyline, there are elements that may leave some readers joining at this point feeling lost. More on that later.
The premise builds off a world of the not-too-distant future where government dysfunction had led to internal divisions and vested interests that at one point threatened to spark a new civil war. It is a world where the “Bread and Circuses” of social media have largely replaced basic human interaction –to the point where a reenactment of the toppling of the twin towers of the World Trade Center sets the backdrop for much of the early action.
Add to this mix an off-the-grid subculture of “Ludlites” embodied in the character of Norwood, former sculptor who breeds snakes for a living and acts as the third leg of the interplay between the forces of good, evil, and American-as-apple-pie indifference. The mantle of corruption and wealth that sees others as either disposable or something to covet is distilled in the antagonist here, a former senator going by many names, introduced here in the character of Robert Hurley. The prostitute he discards and later pursues, Raquel, is quite handily positioned as the soul of humanity, over whom these elliptical forces vie. The intrigues, secondary characters and subplots that play off these pivots drive the resulting narrative.
There is yet another central element we are introduced to in this novel after these initial characterizations are established, and it is a paranormal one. At least two of the pivotal characters in this novel host entries which speak deeply as to their central motivations in the plot. To say more on this here would tip too much of the storyline, but suffice it to say it is something that owes its origins to the initial novel, “Windfall”, and the lack of exposition to establish that independently in this setting was the cause of more than a little puzzlement in the eyes of this reviewer.
We have here all the elements of good storytelling lined up in this work. The narrative is crisp, the premise is unique, the description and characterizations are well-drawn and compelling. This is exactly why it is so disappointing that the plot, in the end, has such a difficult time supporting them in a satisfying way. One wants this storyline to succeed, and there is much to enjoy here in the ample 499 pages of writing, but taken as a complete work the sum of the parts can meander and seem to outstrip the whole.
To this reviewer, the novel form here cries out for serialization. The world here is much too large to rely on quick summation or shortcuts to reach satisfying cathartic resolutions for characters and subplots that have been so painstakingly and lovingly drawn. Better a thousand pages that allow the heft of this world to settle in, than fewer pages that can cause it to diffuse and resolution seem rushed. In balance, I will say that, as an author, Colin Dodds deserves your attention –there is both excitement in the style and insight in the exposition, and indeed you will find much to enjoy in the world you are presented with –but it may leave you wishing you had been given the more complete immersion, rather than a quick view from the tour bus.
©2017 BlogNostics (JB/DSS)
Colin Dodds grew up in Massachusetts and completed his education in New York City. He’s the author of several novels, including WINDFALL and The Last Bad Job, which the late Norman Mailer touted as showing “something that very few writers have; a species of inner talent that owes very little to other people.” Dodds’ screenplay, Refreshment, was named a semi-finalist in the 2010 American Zoetrope Contest. His poetry has appeared in more than a hundred eighty publications, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. The poet and songwriter David Berman (Silver Jews, Actual Air) said of Dodds’ work: “These are very good poems. For moments I could even feel the old feelings when I read them.” Colin lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Samantha.