Book Review: Paul Theroux ~ O-Zone (1986)

This book fizzes with ideas based around fear. The wealthy fear the poor and erect buildings which are fortresses inside sealed cities. Travel is by helicopter as ground level movement is hazardous as well as being slow from endless checkpoints. The poor fear the rich. The poor are harassed by vigilantes who are armed to the teeth. Vigilantes use lethal force, which they do with gusto.

It’s a satire. The O-Zone is a wilderness, which is contaminated by nuclear waste. As such it’s pristine. Naturally Big Business sees a wilderness and thinks Opportunity(!).

He had come to see that it was a wonderful place, O-Zone – low hills and broad fields and sunken cities: perfect, really, and all ready to be poured full of asphalt.” (p135)

The story revolves round an adventure holiday where a group of friends go because it’s fraught with danger. Obviously they’re kitted out with military weaponry, electronic defence equipment and sterile food. But they’re terrified.

O-Zone is allegedly empty and it emerges it isn’t. Perversely the savages seem happy. They eat actual food as opposed to sterile gloop. They don’t have protective suits and helmets. They’re Rousseaus’s noble savage. The love story revolves round an ‘Owner’ (mega rich person) who falls in love with a 15 year old girl. Needless to relate he gets the girl. As an act of symmetry their son is captured and stops being a geek and becomes a noble savage.

As a footnote Theroux appears to have dreamed up Jeff Bezos’s business plan for Amazon in 1986, which is eight years before Bezos actually got round to it. (p95) I wonder if Theroux was rewarded? (just kidding Jeff).

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