Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Last Boat-Builder in Ballyvoloon, by Finbarr O'Reilly

★★★☆☆ Average

(SF Horror; Celtic Kraken) Meant to clear plastic from the sea, the artificial “squids” have put the oceans off-limits to humanity. Not everyone takes that lying down. (5,875 words; Time: 19m)

Recommended By: SFRevu+1 GDozois+2 NClarke+2

"," by (edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 133, published on .

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

Review: 2017.665 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The scenario of the oceans largely destroyed by mindless replicating bots is an excellent one.

Más is the real protagonist; he remembers the old days when the ocean was open to everyone, and he’s frustrated that no one seems to be doing anything about the problem, so he tries to take action himself. Thwarted by the narrator (whom he trusted), he sacrifices his own life.

Con: The story is a bit confusing. Did the boat contain explosives? Why did the narrator say “someone isn’t playing by the rules?” Did he know Más was blowing up squid (or whatever he was doing).

At the end, how does he still have the booby-trapped boat even after the narrator turned him in?

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6 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I thought this was very good. I'd agree some parts needed to be expanded or clearer, but what was there was a very interesting tale in a well drawn setting. I really liked the presentation as well, with the little extracts breaking up the story.

    1. At a writing class I attended once, an author said "If the readers wonder what's going to happen, that's suspense, and that's good. But if they're wondering what just happened, that's confusion and it's bad." Of course SF readers have a really high tolerance for confusions, but, in the case of this story, even having finished it, I'm not quite sure what happened. Do you think you know? Did I miss something?

  2. Really enjoyed this one. The idea of trying to fix things and then the fix getting out of hand was compelling. And then the picture of how much having to give up the ocean would change the world -- particularly little places like this.

    The boats aren't the means of killing the squid. They're the finished product. He says, "We should be hauling these things out of the water." I assume he's actually doing that -- catching squid in nets. He can carve them out of wood so well because he sees them up close when he carves them up to make his boats. I thought the reference to someone not playing by the rules meant the squid continuing to evolve beyond their creators expectations.

    The bio link above is not the correct Finbarr O'Reilly. The author's website is here:

    1. Wait, he's carving up the squid to make the boats?

    2. Thanks for the correction. I've updated the spreadsheet and regenerated the review.

    3. Yup.

      Description of the younger squid: "These were sleeker machines, of a green so deep it may as well have been black."

      Description of boat: "But where a normal naomhóg was finished with hide or canvas and waterproofed with pitch, Más’s boat was hulled in what looked like glossy green-black plastic stretched over its ribs and stapled in place on the inside of the gunwale."

      In fact, that whole section revealing the boat makes it sound like a sea creature.

      And when the narrator touches the hull, he thinks, "I knew instantly what it was, but I wished I didn’t."