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Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy opens up with a crazy businessman building the tower of Babel in New York City, and a hapeless new hire to the Department of Sewers being eaten by a sewer-dwelling mutant great white shark. It's 2023, and New York is on the brink of a giant earthquake, and that's the least of the city's problems. Penned by Matt Ruff, it's a novel of ecoterrorism, mad AIs, absurdly spacious sewers and an AI construct of Ayn Rand spouting objectivist philosophy and generally having melting down arguments with the rest of the cast.
This book provides examples of the following tropes:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Under New York City. The sewers even have their own ecosystem.
- AI Is a Crapshoot: G. A. S. and the Eye of Africa.
- Best Is Average, Better Is Best: When two employees of Gant have to decide which is the best kind of toothpaste. One of them finds this trope is the solution, which is correct.
- Big Applesauce: A great deal of the book takes place in New York.
- The Croc Is Ticking: Once Meisterbrau swallows a cellphone.
- The Comically Serious: Befitting her philosophy, Artificial Ayn Rand has great difficulties understanding jokes.
- Death by Irony: There are one hundred of them. Orchestrated by the Big Bad.]]
- Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Mutant sharks especially.
- Eye Scream: The "Shiva's Heat weapon". It consists of a laser, which scans the landscape for reflecting surfaces like binoculars or glasses, and in case of a discovery is tuned to full power to burn out the eyes of anyone in range.
- Flying Seafood Special: Meisterbrau eventually unfolds wings.
- General Ripper: Troubadour Penzias, in an unusually cruel and racist way.
- God Save Us From the Queen: Queen Elizabeth II, still ruling Great Britain in 2023, is moody, arrogant, and tends to poison recalcitrant subordinates.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Lexa Thatcher, Philo Dufresne and Toshiro Goodhead.
- Hidden Depths: Matt Ruff apparently likes to eventually unfold detailed backstories for previously sketchy characters.
- Knock-Knock Joke: Abbie Hoffman has to teach Ayn Rand humor in heaven as punishment for committing suicide. He tries this kind of joke, but Ayn doesn't like to pretend he was knocking a door, because that's unlogical if she can see it!
- Methuselah Syndrome: Kite
- New Meat: Eddie Wilder.
- Multinational Team: The crew of Philo Dufresne's u-boat.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Not quite. Queen Elizabeth II. and many other real-life persons that were still alive at the time of the book appear undisguised. Some are not portrayed especially pleasantly, and others are eventually killed off.
- Psycho for Hire: Troubadour Penzias.
- Shark Pool: Meisterbrau is kept in an outside pool by the aquarium employees Frankie and Salvatore. It does not end well.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Maxwell and Troubadour Penzias. Both are rather insane, in different ways.
- Take That: Atlas Shrugged is acerbically dissected by Joan.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Harry Gant's mother is a tall, husky construction forewoman, while his father is a short, rather frail history buff.
- War Is Hell: A recurring theme. Several characters are insane Shell Shocked Veterans, and Kite stopped viewing war as an adventure when the actual killing began.
- Why Am I Ticking?: A subplot involves a greedy capitalist who has been fitted with an explosive collar. It will go off in twenty-four hours, killing him, unless he manages to earn $1000 by begging in Grand Central, and feed all the bills through a shredder attached to the collar. Naturally, people are less likely to give him money when they see what he's doing with it...