Saturday, January 22, 2011

God of the Lower Level

Short Story by Charles M. Saplak
Read for Escape Pod by Steve Anderson

A water-treatment plant worker has been keeping a newly sentient tank of bacterial slime on the lower level, he works third shift and just wants someone to talk to at night, but it wonders if he is its god. Fredrick has given it television and internet feeds, a sound card and voice synthesizer, and has been teaching it things. He calls the slime Horatio.

One day Horatio wants to learn more of the world than Fredrick can tell him, and they come into a parent-child sort of conflict. Steve Anderson's voices add a lot to this story, especially his changes in tone based on Horatio's moods.

Nothing outstanding here, it goes pretty much where you'd expect, although the ending surprised me and is much better than the one I'd anticipated, which is worth some bonus points. The narrative device of having the entire story in dialog between Horatio and Fredrick is neat, and works well in places, but feels overly forced in others. Particularly in Fredrick's description of himself, and Horratio's monologging towards the end. Like I said, it is a nice ending, to a funny, if mostly predictable story. Both sad and funny.

Good fun, not too deep, but still a bit better than it seems on the surface, despite the strained dialog at times. The pop culture references are fairly amusing at least. 3.5 out of 5 gods are keep their valves meticulously labeled.

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