Monday, March 12, 2018

Breakwater, by Simon Bestwick

★★★★☆ Non-stop Excitement

(SF Thriller) Humanity is under attack from intelligent creatures we never knew about from the abyss of our own oceans. Cally is a researcher trying to communicate with them when the underwater facility she’s on is attacked and she has to escape before it disintegrates entirely. (15,242 words; Time: 50m)

"Breakwater," by (edited by Ellen Datlow), published on by .

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

Pro: The story does an excellent job of giving us moments of tension, then some relief, then ratcheting the tension even higher. It’s hard to put this one down.

Cally’s mourning for Ben comes across strongly, and her flirtation with the blond boy, Baker, highlights her loneliness, so even before she meets Jen, we know she's ready to be with someone.

The extra horror of finding she’s been intimate with a fish creature is a neat twist, and Jen’s later attempts to hide that part of herself (as though she were merely fussing over her makeup) adds some needed comic relief at just the right point.

Although Cally doesn’t escape without help, she’s far from a passive protagonist, and the only reason she has help at all is that she’s so tirelessly tried to communicate for all these years.

The ship is called the “HMS Dunwich,” which makes us expect references to Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror,” but the The Bathyphylax seem to be inspired by the “Deep Ones” from his “A Shadow over Innsmouth.” There’s no real connection to Lovecraft’s stories here, but it’s a nice in joke for fans.

Con: I don’t see why they couldn’t have just replied to her communication attempts a lot earlier. Given that they had agents like Jen, they could have communicated with Cally by mail, if they wanted to.

It’s not clear why the human defense effort needed a manned facility on the ocean floor. You’d think they could have operated everything just as easily by remote control and afforded far more units.

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