Glen Canyon: A Novel


By: Steven M. Hannon
Published by: Kokopelli Books
Paperback, 635 pages

Buy it.

Publication date: August 1997
Price: $28.95
ISBN: 0965512509
Category: Glen Canyon


Glen Canyon fulfills the fantasy of many eco-aware Colorado River lovers-the destruction of Glen Canyon Dam and the hopeful natural restoration of Glen Canyon. The Glen was likely one of the most spectacular regions on earth, and certainly one of the most remote, before lost in the mid-1960's to the rising waters of Lake Powell. The region was so remote and undiscovered that then Sierra Club President David Brower agreed not to fight a dam in Glen Canyon in exchange for the natural preservation of the Green River's Lodore Canyon, i.e. if the Bureau of Reclamation would drop their plans for the Green River Dam.

Continuing the tradition of Edward Abbey, Hannon draws you into his web or eco-rationalization for the criminal act of destroying the dam. After the first couple of chapters you lose the tendency to judge the characters and their motives, reading blindly on as you fall deeper under the suspenseful trance of international intrigue and the anticipated climax of the book. Hannon's writing style is more sophisticated and tighter ---as are Glen Canyon's characters--than Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang or Hayduke Lives. You'd expect this from a 90's novel, but there is no doubt the old man would have approved.

For those unfamiliar with Glen Canyon's treasures, Hannon introduces you to some of the more notable and famous through historical fiction accounts. The first is of an early Hopi snake-clan priest's final farewell to a sacred tribal site, a natural acoustical wonder where a single voice or instrument naturally sounds as if an entire choir or orchestra is performing at your side.

Some 600 years later, on August 1, 1869, General John Wesley Powell and his party encounter and give the site its current name--Music Temple--during their first expedition down the Grand Canyon. Powell states, "It was doubtless made for an academy of music by its storm-born architect; so we name it music temple." (from The Explorations of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, J.W. Powell, 1961, Dover Publications, New York).

Hannon's plot is tight, mostly believable, suspenseful, with smatterings of eco-idealism. The story begins as group of environmentalists, who in 1963 made one of the last trips down the unaltered Glen Canyon, decide to take on a crusade, a cause-freeing Glen Canyon from the dam and its companion lake. They hope that once the dam is destroyed and the lake drained, nature will restore Glen Canyon to its former beauty; if not in their generation, then in their children's or grandchildren's generation.

If you are a member of the Sagebrush rebellion, the Bureau of Reclamation, or states rights advocate, Glen Canyon will more likely irritate you and convince you of the extremism of the environmental movement and of efforts focused on Lake Powell in particular.

While it is unlikely that such a tale would ever produce a satisfactory real-world result, those who dream of experiencing the wonders of a natural Glen Canyon should be allowed to indulge their fantasy. Glen Canyon, the book, will both indulge and entertain. For everyone else, the story's culmination is most unexpected and, without giving too much away, likely to satisfy both your literary and environmental appetites

Reviewed by Steve Mann

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