Post January 14, 2007, 05:54:07 PM

Re: Under New York

A fair ditty, I thought, but still with some room for improvement. In essence, it's still just a regular old monster story: two guys search the sewer, inexplicably bumble into bank robbers on the lam, and then have to escape a toothy predator.

The professionalism of writing needs work. Sentences such as Sometimes it torpedoed itself up from deep sump waters and snatched a rat or two, and other rats in the excitement fell and floundered in the water until a large mouth pushing water like the bow of a ship engulfed them on its way to other rats who swam faster and faster...but not fast enough! are normally indicative of an excited writer trying to catch the momentum of their thoughts in their writing. The average sentence is not 55 words long, and sticks out to a reader, breaking the suspension of disbelief so needed at the beginning of any story.

The setting started out great. Dark, dank tunnels punctuated only by invisible bloinks! was inspired. The reader can't tell what the world around them is because the characters themselves can't tell. That was very good. However, it didn't last. By the time they near the reptile's sump (Which is exactly what in a sewer, BTW? If the whole thing didn't flow downhill to the treatment plant, is a 'sump' in this context someplace a lift pump would operate?), I didn't have much of a clear picture. Also, I don't recall a lot of sensory input near the end of their escape. Personally, I'd think that would be a moment where your senses would be on overload from the slap of water against your legs to the tiniest sound which might betray the location of their adversary.

Sam and Bert seemed very much like two regular, blue-collar guys--so 'regular' they don't seem believable to me. Any truly interesting character has at least one major flaw, and a love of overtime doesn't quite cut it. Maybe Sam suspects that Bert's been having an affair with his wife, or maybe Bert is actually afraid of the dark (but loves the money more). Such things humanize the characters, and draws people in. The two robbers are equally as flat: a flunky and a boss, Dubs and Mike, both on the wrong side of the law. What was wrong with Dubs, anyway, that he kept throwing up and coughing? I never saw that he was shot and bleeding. Also, what in their makeup lead them to believe it was a good idea to jump into a dark manhole without lights? Where did they think they were going to go?

This thought leads me to the credibility of the plot. That is, does it hold together and ring true? The answer is no, not really. I have no problem with the notion that governments could hide the existence of alligators. Such a thing could well unhinge the populace. I don't mind them pursued by gators (and I assume it would be more than one, since there are plenty of rats to gobble and one such predator can only eat so much). Gators get hungry=chase food. My problem was with the two yutzes dropping into a sewer hole with no lights and no idea where they were going, and then that Sam and Bert help them escape (well, Mike anyway). Why would any of these people do this?

My other problem with the plot was the climax. There wasn't one. They just got away. No special effort was made by any of the characters. They ran far enough and were free. I'd have liked to see a special moment where a character draws upon some hitherto unforeseen life experience, makes some kind of connection or character growth, and that saves them. For example, say Bert was sleeping with Sam's wife, Maria. At that last second, Sam realizes that infidelity wasn't worth death, and he forgave his best friend, pulling him through some hatch. The hatch slams down, and they're saved. I'd like to see something like that. It makes the story human for me, a character driven piece instead of a plot driven one.

[digression: on]Others may disagree, of course. Some feel that genre fiction is plot driven instead of by the characters, and the opposite true of literary fiction. I feel that characters and plot have to interact, but that any real lasting speculative fiction is strongly characterized. The Enterprise may have gone where no one had before, but people wanted to see the dynamics between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (and those sexy alien girls!). Heinlein's Starship Troopers may, on the one hand, have been about fighting off giant killer bugs, but more was about watching Johnny grow and adapt to the challenges facing him. [digression: off]

In terms of dialog, I have no major complaints, other than I'd have liked to see a little more differentiation between the 4 voices. Ideally, you'd like to be able to tell who was talking without the identifier tags.

So, not a bad story, but one with room for improvement.

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