Off The Shelf - "Slide"

by Marcus Pan

Chain Border

SlideWith the dilemma of a court appearance recently and the sudden realization that I was nearly done with the book I was reading, and as we all know it would be terrible to be caught sitting in a boring courtroom with nothing to read, I picked up a small, old paperback found in my father's attic. It was a race against time to complete this before it turned to dust and, indeed, upon completion of the book it promptly fell apart at the seams.

Slide is the simple story of a supermarket caught in a horrendous mudslide on the coast of California. Inside are the typical group of people that one would expect in any pulp action novel. You have the smart guy who finds himself the leader of the group. The loner with the gun. The lesbians. The older man younger girl couple. The at-odds couple trying to get back together. And together they try to find their way out of the mud-buried supermarket.

The story held a charm of its own, indeed. It's an older book, but it's hard for a natural-disaster novel to become dated in a world where Mother Nature could piss on us any time she wants without us being capable of doing a damn thing about it. Therefore the drama plays out as well today as it did 25 years ago when it was written. It's also short and moves along quickly - it took me only 4 or 5 days to read, and then only on train rides and one short morning in the aforementioned court. This is a good train book.

You might think that they could, of course, just swim out, yes? But no - this is super mud. This mud, once it gets its hold on you, sucks you down faster than a Tokyo hooker with a crack habit. Caught on the shelf islands within the supermarket, Our Heroes must find a way out without knowing which way the supermarket is now facing, whether or not it's buried, how long it's been, etc. It has a Robinson Crusoe charm to it as the characters struggle to make do with the few tools they have and need to find a way out of the place. Building bridges and scaffolds using few tools and no bindings, for example, out of the shelf slats they were able to pry up from their perches.

Gerald's writing style is, as I said, swift moving. It's also a bit bland, and character development is very low key. I knew the mud better than I knew the people. Sure you're let into their head a bit, after all how many times can you describe the color brown without falling asleep? But it failed to build anything more than two-dimensional paper dolls for the most part. So when the occasional character dips into the great brown river and doesn't surface (super mud, remember?), it's just a shrug and on to the next paragraph. Action? Very little. Was it fun to read? Well, it depends on the context. I started it in court - it was helluva more fun than watching legal proceedings. It was kind of like having a diner cookie after dinner. Not as satisfying as the meal and very crumbly, but usually doesn't taste too bad.

"Slide" by Gerald Gerald A. Browne
Published by Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
Copyright © 1976 by Pulse Productions, Inc.
ISBN 0-440-17701-4

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