“Hinterlight Abbey” by Kat Otis
Reviewed by Kat Day
This issue of Flash Fiction Online contains four stories connected by the theme of change. As Suzanne Vincent says in the editorial: “For some, it is expected, for others not. Each character deals with it differently, some successfully, some not.” Three of the stories are original while the fourth, “Molten Heart,” by Alexis A. Hunter, is a reprint.
“Hinterlight Abbey,” by Kat Otis, begins with a definition of “hinterlight” as the area surrounding the flight vector of a faster-than-light spaceship, placing us firmly in science fiction territory. However, what unfolds is really a story about family and the desire to protect one’s own interests above all others – a fascinating contrast with the apparently religious set-up of the “abbey.” The characters in this story are well-drawn and it’s compelling, but I confess to finding myself confused at the end. It ends very abruptly and I felt as if this were less a piece of flash fiction, more an excerpt from a longer work. I hope Otis develops this world further – I’m not sure flash fiction is the right form for it.
“A Menagerie of Grief,” by Kelly Sandoval, is a beautiful little story, certainly my favorite in this issue and quite possibly one of my favorites this year. In it, two parents have to deal with the loss of their child, and their grief manifests as two very different animal forms. Sandoval cleverly uses the metaphor to explain how the different parents cope (or don’t) differently, how they struggle to understand each other’s response, and how they eventually manage to find a way for their respective emotions to co-exist. Moving and thought-provoking – highly recommended.
“A Box Full of Winter,” by Hannah Dela Cruz, is very different to the other tales in this issue. In it, our protagonist is watching a documentary about Robert Redford when the man himself walks in. The two of them potter around the house, eat dinner, and eventually fall asleep on the couch. It’s an odd story – clearly the Robert Redford character isn’t real, but I struggled to put my finger on exactly what he was supposed to represent. Is he simply the reaction of a mind fractured by painful events? There are hints of this, but it’s not really clear in the story. This is a pleasant enough read, but for me the narrative didn’t quite come together.
Kat Day writes the award-winning, non-fiction science blog The Chronicle Flask, which you can find at chronicleflask.com. She also has a fiction blog, at thefictionphial.wordpress.com.