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Glen Canyon by Steve Hannon

Review by Ed Quillen

Glen Canyon Dam – May 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

Glen Canyon
by Steven Hannon
Published in 1997 by Kokopelli Books
ISBN 0-9655125-0-9

GRANTED, Glen Canyon Dam and Powell Reservoir are a considerable distance from Central Colorado, and author Steven Hannon hails from civilized Denver, not our portion of the boondocks. But the complex in northeastern Arizona has been much in the news lately with controversial proposals to drain the reservoir, and it is connected to our part of the world in several ways, not all of them obvious.

A sign at the dam’s Carl V. Hayden Visitor Center mentions that Buena Vista is among the locales receiving electricity from the hydro-electric power plant. The undiverted flows of the Gunnison carry our eroding mountains into Powell Reservoir. And as George Sibley pointed out in a recent essay in High Country News, Glen Canyon Dam is but a physical manifestation of the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement that kept water for Colorado that Colorado couldn’t use at the time. That allowed later water development on the Western Slope, with diversions that mean that the rafting season on the Arkansas extends all summer, instead of fading on Independence Day.

That said, what of this novel?

Imagine a sequel to Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang written in Tom Clancy techno-thriller style, and you’ve got a fair idea of the story and approach.

The monkey-wrenchers operated all over the Southwest, while this tale focuses on the dam (though operations extend clear to the Black Sea in Asia). But each principal monkey-wrencher — Doc, Bonnie, Seldom Seen, Hayduke — has an analog here. On the side of the Bad Guys, though, there’s no one quite so memorable as Bishop Love.

Its plot is intricate, involving some nuclear scientists who come to believe that a demonstration in a desolate area might illustrate the danger of maintaining arsenals of deteriorating but powerful weapons, along with a Pacific Ocean storm moving inland that dwarfs anything El NiƱo has yet offered.

Be warned that author Hannon hates Glen Canyon Dam, seeing it as an unmitigated evil, the result of an unholy conspiracy among real-estate developers, subsidized cotton farmers, and pork-barrel politics, aimed at destroying a serene Southwest for profit while obliterating anything that gets in their way.

That said, though, it’s a grand adventure and a fine modern techo-thriller — radically different politics than you read in a Clancy, but quite similar in style, even to the overabundance of technical detail that often slows the pace.

Just as with a Clancy book, that slowed my progress at first, with me plodding through a few chapters each evening until I got about two-thirds of the way through — then I was up until 4 a.m. to find out how all these intricacies combined to a bang-up conclusion.

So it’s fine reading if you like that genre (and I do), and in the process, you’ll learn plenty about the Colorado Plateau, Glen Canyon, its 708-foot dam, and Powell Reservoir (his more accurate term for what the tourist industry calls “Lake Powell”).

— Ed Quillen