Almost Goodbye

by Aaron A Reed profile

Slice of life

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Number of Reviews: 4
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Hamlet on the Generation Ship, February 24, 2013
by Sam Kabo Ashwell (Seattle)

Almost Goodbye is a series of drama set-pieces: two people, a setting, a last chance to make something meaningful of a flawed relationship that will have no next chapter. It's a deeply theatrical premise: you can almost see the big empty stage, a projection screen, two chairs in the middle of all that space.

This is all based around a science-fiction premise: the protagonist is a scientist about to depart on a one-way space-colony mission. There are genuine observations being made here about sciencey subjects: the unprecedented finality of long-distance space migrations, the way that the all-consuming drive required to be a top-ranked modern specialist is liable to screw up one's personal life. But this is very, very much secondary to the Interpersonal Conflict side of things.

The main problem that Almost Goodbye faces is in its writing. Not that it's bad, by any means: it's consistently well above average. But the nature of the piece, the rawness of its framing - two familiar people, one irreconcilable disagreement, no time - lay things bare. There aren't any flashy explosions, clever puzzles or gorgeous costumes to hide behind. There's no room to prevaricate. So the piece, by its nature, sets a very high bar for its prose. Reed is a good prosaist but not a great one; there are points where the writing hits the nail on the head, and a lot more points where it's... fine, but not quite delivering the staggering emotional gut-punch that the situation calls for. (I'm am an absolute sucker for the theme of leaving a beloved place forever. Dragged-out goodbyes fuck me up. I fully expected to be crying by the end of this. In the event, nothing quite did it; I am aware that this is a totally unfair standard.)

Structurally, it's a very simple scene-based CYOA with a scattering of contextual text substitutions (it was written to showcase what could be done within that scope; and the contextual stuff is well-orchestrated). Your choices are important, for all that they don't influence the broad outcome of the action in the slightest; these are choices about who you are and how you care about people, not what you do. (It treads a thin line in avoiding judgment about which choices are the Good Choices, and mostly gets away with it.)

The regular structure of the thing, the establishing of a scene according to a set of rules, the one-word assertions about the state of the protagonist, the pathos twist at the end, puts me strongly in mind of narrative RPGs. Possibly I am projecting here. But my feeling at the end of playing this was: this would be an amazing story told off-the-cuff. As a polished piece, it's almost there.