REVIEW: “The Mad Cabbage” by Céline Malgen

Review of Céline Malgen, “The Mad Cabbage”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact July/August (2020): 81–85 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Contains spoilers.

One day, Nicole is stunned to find that the environment of her cabbage bacteria has gone incredibly acidic. She investigates and discovers that thanks to a childish prank by her lab mate Xavier, her bacteria have mutated in a way that could be very beneficial for her research.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to like in “The Mad Cabbage.” The author explores some neat ideas in microbiology, as well as giving an accurate – well, mostly accurate – portrayal of what graduate school life is like. However, the story suffers from bad writing, so much so that I’m a bit surprised it even made it in print. The prose is clunky and overly expository, full of infodumps and, in some cases, poor English. It’s hard to focus on the narrative when the prose constantly bombards you with unnecessary information.

The plot’s central mystery is mostly well-crafted, with an interesting, albeit scientifically questionable resolution. The character of Xavier, however, is so cartoony that he might as well have a thin mustache to twirl. As a graduate student, he’s simply too villainous to believe.

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