Diabolical Plots #12, February 2016
Reviewed by Brandon Nolta
Sacrifice, whether in one grand, selfless act or the thousand cuts of a lifetime, is often a hopeful act, as Kate O’Connor’s lyrical “May Dreams Shelter Us” reminds us. Survivors of a catastrophe that destroyed Earth, Jessi and Raia lead a colony ship with a handful of crew and nearly 400 fertilized embryos to a new world. However, the trip takes longer than planned, and the equipment Raia patched together to keep the embryos alive and in a state of stasis wasn’t meant for lengthy deployments, so Raia must spend time with the nascent children in a neural link to keep them calm and mentally exercised, a process that damages her more and more every time she performs the link. Choices must be made, and it’s in this test of Raia’s character that O’Connor’s graceful yet understated prose shines. Never straining for effect, O’Connor underlines the tragic aspects of Raia’s predicament without losing sight of the pragmatic optimism that underlines her motivation, and gives proper weight to Jessi’s feelings on the matter without tipping her hand too far one way or the other. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl,” O’Connor’s story evokes a similar sense of hope amidst pain, and does it with economy, grace, and confidence.