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Monday, October 20, 2014

Eagleridge Bluffs: Can Eco-Terrorism Be Justified?

I consider a thriller more compelling if it deals with a theme that I find significant.  That’s why I enjoy eco-thrillers.  I had recently read and very much liked the romantic eco-thriller, Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith which I reviewed here .  So I was glad to have won a copy of the romantic eco-thriller, Eagleridge Bluffs by Rod Raglin through a Booklikes giveaway.


Eagleridge Bluffs actually exists. I suspect that Raglin chose Eagleridge Bluffs as the setting because it’s in the Vancouver area and is presumably important to him as a resident of Vancouver.  Out of curiosity, I did a search to determine the real world fate of this site.  It turns out that instead of the standard resource extraction corporations that usually threaten beautiful and sacred places, it was the Vancouver Olympics  that caused major destruction to the site, according to the article from Scientific American that I’ve linked just above.  I’d imagine that it would be difficult to fictionalize what really happened to Eagleridge Bluffs, and it’s possible that a large portion of the audience would have been alienated by a novel that made a villain of the Olympics.  I‘d be very surprised if Eagleridge Bluffs is the only example of environmental destruction resulting from an earlier Olympics.  There’s probably a long history of these incidents.  In fact,  I discovered an item from the Environmental News Service about ecological damage to Russia as a result of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

I am speaking as someone who watches the Olympics coverage on television every year.  I believe in the Olympics movement, and in the dreams of Olympic athletes.   I just wish that a sustainable Olympics meant more than superficial window dressing.   Can an Olympics be held using existing facilities without deforestation and the destruction of animal habitats?  It’s something that future Olympics planning really ought to consider.  

An important thematic issue to address in a review of Eagleridge Bluffs is the ethics of eco-terrorism.  The phrase “collateral damage” is actually used by a member of an eco-terrorist team in this novel.  I wouldn’t be surprised if those who are wrecking our environment consider it “collateral damage” in the pursuit of their goals.  Can the ends justify the means?  Historically, some idealists who originally had the best of intentions became responsible for major death tolls. French revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre, for example, went down in history as the architect of the post-revolutionary Reign of Terror. He considered it justice, but he himself was eventually guillotined.  When historians evaluate whether the French Revolution actually achieved its goals they have to consider the impact of the Reign of Terror.  It seemed to me that the eco-terrorists in Eagleridge Bluffs had the same sort of ideology as Robespierre. People who want to protect the environment are motivated by their conviction that all the beings who live on our planet have value.  How is a phrase like “collateral damage” consistent with that belief?  

Miriam, the female protagonist, asks the tough questions that the eco-terrorists weren’t asking themselves. I think that Eagleridge Bluffs would have been a better novel if Zaahir, the eco-terrorist central character, had been portrayed as willing to reflect on his actions.  This would have given him more dimension.

I have to say that I almost set Eagleridge Bluffs aside for a reason that is a spoiler. It undermined Miriam’s credibility as a character.   Yet I stuck with the book, and I’m glad I did because the ending was very inspirational. 

The reason why I enjoyed the ending so much is because it represents all the progress that Miriam made over the course of the book.  This is the aspect of Miriam’s characterization that I found believable.  When we first encounter Miriam she has been depressed for some time.  This explains her passivity. Gradually, she becomes stronger and reclaims herself. 

Yet when I examined the ending from the perspective of Zaahir, it seemed to me that there was some missing character development that would have made the ending possible.  Zaahir may or may not have experienced a radical change in outlook.  I can speculate, but Raglin leaves us with too many questions about this character.

So there are things that I liked about Eagleridge Bluffs, but there are some serious flaws in the characterization.  Readers who care more about the thriller aspect of the book may not have the qualms that I did about whether the main characters were making sense.    


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