Flash fiction, with its extremely pared-down structures due to the authors' aims of writing stories of less than 1000 words, makes for a very difficult review task. Compound that with 100 flash fiction stories by 100 different authors and you end up with a collection of stories that will often take multiple reads in order for them to yield all of their secrets. The Flash, which contains stories by authors such as Shelley Jackson, Daniel Wallace, Jonathan Lethem, Jeff VanderMeer, Paul Di Filippo, Jeffrey Ford, and Aimee Bender for those whose stories I've read and enjoyed elsewhere, is one such example of a collection whose diversity of styles and focuses will make any such cursory review of them to be just that, a cursory, first take on something that really needs multiple reads for more than a surface-level reaction-type commentary. But since I do not have that time and since I want to note some of the recent short fiction that is out there, I shall do my best to talk about this collection as a whole.
Despite proceeds from the sale of this book going to Amnesty International, you will not find much in the way of unity between these 100 stories in The Flash. What you can find are many stories that look at alienation, of discontinuities between the past and present, tales that come to a sudden close and permit us to fill in the blanks in the same fashion that Hemingway's famous "For sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn" causes us to imagine all sorts of explanations for what has transpired or what might be going on inside the thoughts of the off-stage character(s).
Sometimes, the effect is that of a beautiful moment caught in just a few words, such as in Christopher Coake's "Vibrato." Other times, there is a sense of a deep hunger lying below the surface, as illustrated by the end of Jeff VanderMeer's "The Magician." But regardless of these tales of hope, despair, I-can't-give-two-shits, and yearning for something other than the here and now, these very brief tales contain plenty of haunting moments to make this a worthwhile collection to consider for those of us who prefer stories to be told with a premium placed on the words and not on the exposition.
Summary: The Flash contains 100 stories of less than 1000 words each by 100 authors writing in a variety of styles and with their own takes on the world and the people that inhabit them. This is not a collection to be skimmed through or to be read only once, as these stories are constructed in such a fashion as to encourage multiple re-reads in order to glean as much from them as possible. Very enjoyable read, recommended for those who prefer short fiction.
Release Date: January 2007 (UK, US), paperback
Publisher: Social Disease