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Pump Six (short story) by Paolo Bacigalupi
Review by Alana Hurley
Fantasy & Science Fiction  ISBN/ITEM#: SFR7663_0807
Date: 19 June 2008

Links: Review: Pump Six and Other Stories / Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi / Excerpt from Pump Six /

Forget the nonylphenols that are turning male fish into females--according to Bacigalupi, that's just the beginning. "Pump Six", a disturbing little piece of dystopian fiction, presents a future in which the futilely dedicated few are trying, and failing, to keep things together.

Bacigalupi's hero, Alvarez, is tasked with keeping the city's sewage pumps running. The stakes are high: errant chemicals, contaminated water, and years of failing infrastructure (sound familiar?) have caused affected humans to give birth to a new subspecies, trogs, who in turn are procreating, and procreating, and procreating in the city's parks and alleys. Cheerful, stupid, and endlessly lascivious, it's getting harder to differentiate between the trogs and humans. Still, Alvarez persists, driven by an obsolete work ethic and the understanding of what will happen if the outdated PressureDynes fail.

Readers will no doubt sympathize with Alvarez's plight as the Last Man Caring, surrounded by an office full of useless and combative coworkers, an emotionally unbalanced girlfriend, trog-like college students, and drug-blasted friends. Bacigalupi is a skilled wordsmith, rendering the numbing monotony of the not-too-distant future, a hilarious drug-fueled interlude in a roof-top club, and Alvarez's increasing frustration with trying to keep something, anything, functioning equally well. His vision is creepily prescient, especially for anyone who's spent time on a college campus recently. With "Pump Six", Bacigalupi follows Atwood and Rand in presenting a vision of the future just past the last tipping point where things could be saved.

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