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Watershed a New Novel by Colin Dodds, reviewed by Casey Dorman

Alternate Reality Or The Real Thing?

Review of Watershed by Colin Dodds

Casey Dorman


Watershed by Colin Dodds

Published by Amazon Digital Services

Release Date: May 12, 2017


I love stories involving alternate realities, especially those that take the trends of the present and project them—in exaggerated form—slightly into the future. Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the basis for the classic film, “Bladerunner”) is a famous example. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history that has recently been resurrected through Amazon’s hit series based on the book. Although Dick’s dystopian novels were, during his lifetime, enjoyed mostly by his sci-fi fan base, they have since been recognized for their imaginative vision as major literary accomplishments. Modern writers as diverse as Philip Roth, William Gibson and Kazuo Ishiguro have achieved literary success with the genre. Currently, Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian view of a repressive, ecologically damaged, United States is the toast of streaming television.

Colin Dodds has achieved a highly readable, quirkily creative alternate reality that comes frighteningly close to real life in his new novel, Watershed. The United States described in his story is one in which most people live half in and half out of complete absorption by their electronic equipment—cell phones, total wall video screens, streaming information across their cars’ windshields and so on. It is the present taken to its logical extreme. The lines between entertainment and reality have been blurred to the point of farce. On the anniversary of the 9/11-terror attack, the country assembles, either in person or around their video screens, to watch a reenactment of the disaster as a planeload of prisoners flies into a reconstructed version of one of the Twin Towers. Half the watchers cheer for the fake “terrorists’” and half for the imagined victims.

Amid this projected vision of today, six people live out an interconnected plot, which is intricately related to the environment around them. Norwood is a Ludlite, one of the minority of citizens who reject the electronic domination of their world by eschewing smart phones, using old-fashioned emails on computers, which they borrow from internet cafes, and watch movies on DVDs. They are Luddites with enough use of modern electronics to make the Luddite “lite.” Norwood is a sculptor, who, when he was consigned to sculpting cartoon video characters, chose to raise exotic snakes instead. Raquel, an expensive prostitute who parachutes, nude, into his life one night as part of a performance/sexcapade, becomes his lover, wife and perhaps the mother of his child. Both are pursued by Hurley, the genetically strange and long-lived former senator, illicit lobbyist and millionaire who avails himself of the latest surgical and electronic advances to change his identity whenever his adversaries begin to close in on him. He believes that Raquel’s child may be his. One of Hurley’s pursuers is Wilhelmina, a woman detective who used to be a man before having his genitals shot off. Wilhelmina also employs Norwood in a devious plan to profit from the 9/11 reenactment. Both Norwood and Wilhelmina are targeted by Hurley’s assistant, Tyra and her hired goon, Gavin, a part-time financial advisor who enjoys killing, and is employed by Hurley to kill both Wilhelmina and Norwood. The story concerns Norwood and Raquel’s attempt to elude Hurley and his hired staff and establish a “normal” life in a Lublite community somewhere in the U.S.

The convoluted story treats us to a tour through this future possibility United States while also leading us on an exciting chase by a cast of characters, each of which is explored in greater depth than would be usual for a thriller-genre story and rivals some of Dick’s stories in terms of the nuances of twisted personalities. Identities are acquired and shed, sometimes via paperwork and just as often through plastic surgery. Norwood and Raquel are the definitely good and sympathetic heroes of the novel and Hurley is the villain with few redeeming qualities. Everyone else is too human to be classified so easily and this fact draws the reader deep into both the story and the characters’ personalities.

Watershed is indeed a watershed when it comes to revealing the dominance of our electronic, internet based world on our lives. I of course was aware of this before reading the book, but it did make me self-conscious about my own obsessive reliance on new (mostly trivial) information streaming nonstop into my brain through various devices. But Watershed is much more than social commentary. It’s a genuinely captivating edge-of-your-seat thriller, which kept me reading from beginning to end, looking forward to each new chapter. My only self-conscious pang of guilt came from the fact that I read it on a Kindle device instead of as a hardcopy. But then Kindle books probably qualify, along with DVDs and audiotapes, as Lud “lite” devices. At least I didn’t read it on my smartphone.


Watershed is scheduled for release as a Kindle ebook on May 12, 2017. Find it on Amazon 






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