First, there's no such thing as an "environmental suspense novel." (I know because I looked it up on the internet, and the closest thing I could find was some sci-fi book about how the North Pole melts and sinks Los Angeles.) Second, Firewater isn't "brutally funny," nor does it produce "belly laughs." It is brutal, but in a vicious, painful way, and it does produce something to do with my belly, that being a strong desire to eviscerate myself.
Author Edward Stone Cohen seems desperate to launch his ill-conceived eco-thriller genre, and he's created an equally ill-conceived cast of characters to help him do it. Cohen uses only two techniques for characterization--refusing to define any attributes whatsoever (he doesn't even disclose one major protagonist's gender until like page forty), and, as in the case of his Bukowski rip-off Chief Shelldrake, using descriptions such as "The Chief was a beautiful caged-gorilla of a man."
Since the book somehow got published, you'd think Cohen's plot or style would be worthwhile, even if the characters aren't. Nope. Cohen constantly switches narrators, which wouldn't be a problem if he was clear about who was talking, which he's not. (Initially, I assumed it was a Faulkner-esque style thing, but then I figured out it was only blathering incompetence.) Throw in Cohen's unrelenting and simplistic rants about the evils of Olestra and far-fetched government conspiracies, and the result is a practically non-existent story told with a style that manages to be more annoying than all of Hawthorne's hippies combined.
There is one good thing about Firewater: it's so godawful that there probably won't be any further "environmental suspense novel" attempts. Firewater's been published posthumously, and at first I wondered if it'd be morally OK to rip on a dead guy's writing. Then I realized that if Cohen's dead, he can't write anymore. My giddiness at that thought wiped that nagging ethical quandary right out of my head. ERIK HENRIKSEN