Friday, September 11, 2015

Caisson, by Karl Bunker

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A young man helping build the Brooklyn Bridge in 1871 copes with a friend who's too interested in the fossils they find on the riverbed. (7,500 words; Time: 25m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Recommended
Recommended By: SFEP

"Caisson," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 08|15, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Mischke is the main character here; Dudek is merely the narrator. At the very start we learn that Mischke loves children but for some reason (a very emotional one) cannot have a family of his own. At the end, we find him happy with a wife and children, which completes the story.

In the caissons we learn that the compressed air brings things to life. We learn about the fire that would not die. Then Mischke finds the perfect egg that he's sure will come to life--and then is sure has hatched. At the end, we realize that that same magical supercharged air has restored Mischke's fertility as well. This gives us a reason to believe that his story about the egg was true as well.

The story is outstanding for its depiction of what the work on the caissons was actually like, as well as giving a very clear view of late 19th-century New York in the eyes of a young immigrant.

Con: You can read the story as mainstream fiction if you assume that J'zurkie is just the name of the family dog and that the fossil egg either never existed or never hatched except in the mind of Mischke.

Although the construction of the story and the writing quality are excellent, it doesn't engage us emotionally. We're happy for Mischke, but we're not powerfully moved.

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