Rule 88 by Andrew Kaye (Flash Fiction)

A review on site, finally. As some may notice, this isn't going to be my usual Reading at Dawn review and for a couple of reasons. First, it's not a novel. Shocking, I know. While our main focus on this blog is the reading and reviewing of longer works, mostly novel length items, I do believe it's good on occasion to break that boundary. There is much we can learn as writers (or even readers who don't also write) from writing that is shorter than a novel or novella. I'll showcase this point in my next review as well because I'll be showcasing manga I read online. That and I need to post here on a regular basis more often. My apologies to my neglected blog. Next, this is also a review for an activity on Writing.Com known as the WYRM Gauntlet, so the review will be a bit different for that reason too. But I hope some readers find this review helpful.

First, a little about the publication who posted the story. Because if submitting it's always good to look at the publisher and what they have published already. It doesn't hurt to do the same as a reader because it may lead to finding more things to read you didn't know existed.  Here is their link:

Kaleidotrope is in its essence an eclectic e-zine(had print issues till 2011) that publishes a variety of short work including poems, nonfiction and fiction. Explained on the guidelines page, the e-zine "tends heavily towards the speculative — towards science fiction, fantasy and horror — but we like an eclectic mix and are therefore always eager to read interesting work that falls outside those categories. Man does not live on space ships, elves and ghostly axe murderers alone, after all." And as a result of such, we get a story like the one I will now review.

"Rule 88" by Andrew Kaye

 This is a flash fiction story, coming in under 1,000 words, about a hunting expedition that showcases a set of rules the hunters have to follow. While we don't get to know all the rules, a few are showcased in the limited word count to illustrate the world and situation of the story. The viewpoint character is a hunter and on an expedition with a couple of his buddies in a sci-fi type of world the writer has set up. Those are the basic details of the story. Who should read it? Well, that depends on a few things.

If you're a reader looking for a character driven story... this one might not be for you. While we have a main character listed per se, it's not quite what one often expects when they have a first person story. The characters in the story are the viewpoint character (nameless first person pov), buddies Aaron and Gordon, and Larry the hunting guide. While we are in the one character's head, that whole first person point of view aspect, whatever his name is, I hesitate to call him a main character because the story isn't really about him. The action and consequences don't happen to him. He has a want sure, they are all hunting and want to have a successful hunt, but it's not his problem in the story in the end. That is why I call him the viewpoint character but not the main character, he is watching what happens and in that way the reader watches what happens with him because he is just their outlet to see the situation.

If you expect lots of action, fights against antagonists, a being as the antagonist, lots of tension, or well females... this one might not be for you either. This isn't that kind of a story and some of that well, have to consider what one can do in less than 1,000 words.  To me, a novel writer, I'm in awe at what people can do with flash fiction and how they can make it sound like a finished story. All of mine end up as scenes for novels as my plot ideas are viewed as too big for the short word counts I try to keep them under. A writer can do great things in a flash fiction story, but we still have to remember that it has its own limits and skillsets. And if you really need a female in a story maybe you should read this and give this little hunting story a chance.

Who is this story for? Well, it's for those who are interested in flash fiction. A reader who likes a plot that is more focused on a situation than on a character and their problems. Those who are interested in a "what if" scenarios may also find this story intriguing because to me it feels like a story created from what if questions. I can just picture potential questions with this story. Ones like: What if hunting had strict rules that must be followed? and What if someone or something got in the way of a regulated hunt? To name a couple, there is another but I won't list it because I don't want to spoil the story for anyone. There is much to the story if one looks into everything the author managed to provide in a tight set of words. It's an interesting idea especially for those who go to different countries and such for hunting (like my uncle) and I could imagine him enjoying this story because of the situation it showcases.

For writers, I suggest anyone wanting to see how to show their world without taking up chapters of info dumping to give this story a read. Especially anyone who has specific sets of rules or codes of conduct they want to show without having to list them off. Kaye does a great job at showcasing the world with the few rules that get listed in the story and the limited description of the world the hunters are in. Granted there are spots in this story that feel a bit of a set up, the beginning in particular and one can argue that the story needed more action and less info in it, but novelist have the same problem in 10,000 words and Kaye manages pretty well in under 1,000.  Flash fiction is a challenge, especially when trying to show character, world, setting and everything without taking up the word count. I think this story is a good example of what a writer can be capable of showing. If you're interested in see an example of how to write this way, then I'd say "Rule 88" is one to give a read with an eye for analysis and learning

Did I like the story? It was okay. I'm not really the target audience per say but I did find the piece to be well written and somewhat interesting. While I'm not a hunter and I prefer character focused stories, I didn't have any problems reading this one. There was one part that distracted me a little, a mention of ten fingers and toys that seemed questionable, but other than that I read the story with ease and even enjoyed it a little. I liked the aspect of how the world is shown, the rules and the little character tidbits that were provided. On the other hand, I am not a fan of first person pov and personally I don't like when I don't know the pov character's name. It's a personal quirk of my own, I need a character name even in less than 1k words. But it's short enough that I didn't stop reading because of no name (as I did with a novel once). I do also see that some may not like this one because the viewpoint character is rather passive. Having the first person pov person just watch what happens does sometimes make a story feel like it might be lacking something to a reader. But it's well written and does have merit, overall as a flash fiction story.  I might find myself checking out the e-zine and looking for the author's other flash fiction work in the near future out of curiosity. I do enjoy a strange story every now and then and this qualifies.

Are you curious yet? Check out the story and see what you think. It's less than 1,000 words, so why not give it a try.

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