Friday, April 27, 2018

Bubble and Squeak, by David Gerrold and Ctein

★★★★☆ Exciting, Scary, Moving, and Fun

(Hard SF Disaster; Ripple Effect) As a tsunami bears down on LA, James and his fiancΓ© Hu struggle to escape before it hits. (33,067 words; Time: 1h:50m)

Recommended By: πŸ†₃Readers+2 πŸ“™₁RHorton+2Best πŸ‘RSR+1 πŸ‘STomaino+1 (Q&A)

"," by and (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 05-06|18, published on by .

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

Review: 2018.246 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story depicts the destruction of Los Angeles by a 300-foot-tall mega-tsunami generated by a volcanic-flank collapse in Hawaii. Flank collapse events really can generate mega-tsunamis,  and mega-tsunamis over 600-feet high have hit the Pacific coast in prehistory, so the story is actually quite plausible.

The details on SCUBA equipment seem to be pretty accurate, as far as I can tell. The whole story shows incredible attention to detail, and that’s a big part of what makes it come to life.

Obviously the main attraction of this tale is the thrills, chills, and excitement. The tension as Hu and James take a detour to rescue Pearl, even as we know the wave is bearing down on them. And when they end up taking a later train than they’d planned. And, of course, the dramatic scene where they use the scuba gear to stay alive even as they’re submerged in the subway tunnel.

The omniscient narration takes us back and forth between James and Hu, making them feel more like a unit than like two different people, which is probably the intended effect.

It is particularly chilling when the same people who cheered James and Hu’s impromptu wedding in the subway car almost all drown just minutes later. That little episode made the tragedy far more real.

And the most powerful emotional moment might be when the little girl said she was never afraid because she knew God had sent the two of them to take care of her.

Con: The story has a bit of an unfinished feel to it. For example, we never learn what happened to Pearl. We can guess that she died, but it's surprising that her story is left unfinished.

A few other things detract, like the discovery that Hu's full name is “Hu Son” for the sole purpose of the joke “Hu Son first.” That was a disbelief buster in the heart of what should have been a very moving scene.

Finally, some of the scenes of homophobia seemed more appropriate to the 1980s than to 21st-Century LA.

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David Gerrold Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline
Ctein Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. The "unfinished feel" may be due to the fact that the novella comprises about 20% of a whole novel they're working on. I did feel it stood alone quite well as a novella but really wanted to read more (my interpretation of the unfinished feel, I guess) -- and we'll all have the chance, so yay!

    I work in Santa Monica, two miles from the shoreline, live 18 miles from the shoreline as the crow flies, and found this story deeply moving and utterly terrifying. This is my home. And as soon as I got home after reading it I made my husband agree to my tsunami evacuation plan (basically, get to the Gold Line and head east).

    1. When I was at Caltech, I had a summer job in Santa Monica, so I know the area too. And I'm also looking forward to the novel.