by Ann Somerville, futuristic (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-59998-938-7

Interstitial presents a situation that truly defines the word "awkward". Captain Sebastien ven Hester leads a crew of three (counting himself) on a three week mission on the space cargo ship Naurus. Pilot Jason North has a thing for Seb. The ship engineer Jatila Kan on the other hand thinks that she is Jason's girlfriend. Oops, she may have to rethink that one when her lover starts sparking with her captain. Seb's mind has not been in a happy place anymore since his divorce a while back, but while he is attracted to Jason, he's not sure whether he's up for another relationship.

And since there is no getting away from each other for the next three weeks, these three people are going to have to do their best to live and work with each other no matter what. But when things get messy and threaten to turn this story into some space monster movie thing, these three will have to get their act together whether they want to or not.

The above synopsis doesn't really accurately reflect this story, to be honest, because Interstitial is actually a pretty hard to pigeonhole story. One thing I can say with certainty though is that this is not a typical romance story. It is more of a character-driven drama - the whole thing about danger and evil serves only as a catalyst to get the characters to examine themselves and their feelings for each other rather than setting things up for a new James Cameron blockbuster in the making.

Also, let me clarify this. This is not a ménage à trois story. There is no explicit sex scene here. And no, the ending will not please you if you are looking for a traditional romance story ending. No, nobody dies, don't worry. It's just that... well, I did say earlier than this is not a romance story. Ms Somerville opts for the most realistic ending for her story, let's just say, and I actually feel that this is the best way to go as it preserves the credibility of the story and allows her characters to stay who they are.

My only and significant issue with this story is that the short story format prevents Ms Somerville from doing more with her characters. Her characters are fascinating and have the potential to be multi-faceted. Seb is a tortured character, but he's actually more than that as the story progresses. North seems like a selfish rakish type while Jati seems like a bitter spurned woman at the start, but like Seb, they display some unexpected depths. By the end of the story, all three feel somewhat like real people rather than stereotypes in motion.

Somewhat, that is, because the short story format means that the author doesn't have ample opportunity to explore the relationships between her characters and define them more clearly. Instead, she has to tell instead of show at times how the characters have made peace with each other. For example, a significant moment of bonding between Seb and Jati is reduced into one paragraph where I am told that they talked and became closer than before. Ah yes, how nice, but I wish that I am shown more of that moment. Of course, this is not impossible given the length of this story.

Therefore, while Interstitial is an interesting read and I appreciate what the author is trying to do here, I still feel that this is merely a watered-down version of what the author is really capable of. If she ever writes a full-length novel, I will be most interested to take a look at it.

Rating: 83

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