A RIVER OUT OF EDEN by John Hockenberry
Kirkus Star


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Chilling first novel about hatred as the handmaiden of terrorism, by Dateline NBC correspondent Hockenberry (a memoir: Moving Violations, 1995).

The stage is the Pacific Northwest, the time is approximately now, the actors are disparate groups whose tolerance for each other never wavers from zero. The local Native American population is Hockenberry's main focus. Dispossessed by the US government's largely well-meant efforts to make life better for the majority, the indigenous Chinooks become a bitter, smoldering minority. The Columbia/Snake River system of dams that brings hydroelectric power to Seattle has wiped out ancient Celito Falls and the adjacent Indian village. No ordinary loss this, and no commonplace village, but a community reaching as far back as the Chinooks themselves. Tribal legend, however, has it that a warrior-hero will appear one day to restore the waters, restock them with salmon, and wreak a longed-for vengeance on the white oppressors. Meantime, the US also serves as the hate object of a dramatically different though equally resentful group: right-wing extremists. The McCurdys, father and son, are point men for that implacable hard-core segment tirelessly plotting the overthrow of the government. Add to this an unappreciated, ill-treated physicist, Jack Charnock, whose largely forgotten work with nuclear weaponry comes to unexpected fruition, and you have a witches' brew of extraordinary volatility. The warrior-hero makes his prophesied appearance. Government people meet untimely ends. Those charged with protecting it cast anxious eyes at the suddenly vulnerable dam system. Charnock's baseball-sized doomsday bombs wind up in exactly the wrong hands, and now, as denouement swiftly approaches, the question is: Can anything at all diffuse this apocalyptic hatred?

Hockenberry strays occasionally into melodrama, but for the most part he makes it all seem disconcertingly plausible: a gripping, unnerving debut thriller.

Pub Date: April 17th, 2001
ISBN: 0-385-49425-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2001