Review: Carnival

BY IN A, Anthology 4 COMMENTS short story

 Anthology. Grade A

When I picked up this book to read, I didn’t have any inkling as to what to expect. Though I was very well aware that it’s a short story collection, and that I will encounter tales belonging to varied genres, I wasn’t exactly prepared for what was to come. Some surprises are good; ‘Carnival’ is definitely one of those.


Question is, what do you do when life gives you choices.

  • A man starving for a week has nothing but rotting banana peels with him.
  • A surgeon operating on his peer who has been threatening to expose his malpractice.
  • Three best friends after one girl in a college where boys outnumber girls three to one.
  • Last man on Earth reasons with Robots to preserve relics of human civilization.
  • Disillusionment a young woman feels the night before her Clitoridectomy
  • A little boy who just cant keep out of trouble, his uncles way or the family mango room.
  • A man on a macabre island where humans are hunted for vicarious pleasure.

In Carnival, characters routinely find themselves in tight situations, some hilarious, some sombre and some downright chilling. When you read how they deal with it, you’ll wonder: Would I have acted the same way?

Isn’t it amazing to start a story when you don’t even know the genre? That’s carnival for you

Following in the footsteps of Labyrinth: Short Stories, Carnival is a collection of fifteen tales that cover genres like adventure, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, literary, historical, humor and many more. As you go from one story to another in Carnival, itll feel like jumping from a beautiful carousel and to a fire breathing roller-coaster.

Rishabh Chaturvedi’s ‘Rhode Island’ starts the proceedings, narrating the events on an island where human and animal are hunted for pleasure. Now, what would you do if you are stuck in such a place? The author connects well with his words, making the scenes look real and mocking you with subtle feelings of dread.

Aparna Sundaresan manages to make you ‘Smile’, and proves the story is aptly named. It has a feel good storyline, an aura of mysticism, and a simple yet effective narration that augments the beauty of this piece. ‘Smile’ is just like those fresh drops of rain on petals, soft and sweet.

You experience a different kind of music in ‘The Music Shop’, something that you had never experienced before. The story, by Sharath Komarraju, provides unimaginable questions, and packs them with answers, and yet you feel like asking for more. This is a very well devised plot that allures you as well as intrigues you.

Rishabh’s ‘Morarka House’ is a comedy, albeit with shades of grey. The characters find themselves in a bizarre situation, and as time progresses, the protagonists are standing at the wrong end, as if fate is making a mockery of their plight. This is a story that you wouldn’t let go without a hearty laugh.

‘Sails’ by Dushyant Shekhawat is a dark tale of treachery and betrayal, and how eventually you get what you give. The concept revolves around the notion of Karma, and highlights the fact that being evil definitely has its consequences. The narration is sharp, and keeps one hooked to the story.

I have read Dr. Vivek Banerjee before, and as expected, he again bowled me over with his fluency and mastery over storytelling. ‘Ayesha’ is a well thought-of plot, not letting you a chance to guess, and guess correctly, and keeps you glued to the story. It’s one of those what-happens-next kind of a story, and even after reading the last word, your mind still asks, “What happens next?”

Envy’ by Sharath is a Science-Fiction tale, highlighting the relationship between human and robots in the near future. The author, very wisely, has not adhered to the tried and tested formula used in such genres, and have applied a more emotional theme in the plot. A good plot, and a different one.

Rohit Das enthralls the readers with ‘Grandma’s Secret’. It again has a shocking twist towards the end, something that you couldn’t have fathomed. The story initially strikes an emotional chord with you, and as you progress towards the end, you know everything isn’t what it seems to be. A very interesting story-line.

Shawn Pereira provides you some comic relief in the form of ‘To Tango With Mango’. An essential ingredient of a good comedy is quick and crispy narration, and Shawn scores a perfect ten in that area. This story will certainly tickle your funny bones, and often put you into fits of laughter.

Skin’ by Muna Hussen is a sensitive portrayal of a girl, set in the backdrops of an age-old tradition. The story hits you hard, and makes you sit up and notice the duality of the so called ‘modern’ society. The author writes about a bold topic such as clitorectomy, clearly questioning the mind-set of the people of our country.

Dr. Ketaki Patwardhan’s ‘The Girl on Train’, thrills and holds on to your suspense till the very end. At one point, the story has a different ending in sight, and all of a sudden the author turns the table with a brilliant twist. The storytelling is swift, and the scenes play before your eyes.

Sheela Jaywant excels in ‘Opportunity Knocks But Once’, highlighting the personal and professional turmoil in the mind of a surgeon, as he performs probably the most testing surgery of his medical career. The last line in the story is sheer brilliance, living up to all your expectations of a perfect story.

Sharath’s ‘End of an Era’ is a delicious tale of love, where two friends, best friends actually, fall for the same girl, and all hell breaks loose. They talk of sacrificing their love for each other, but who knows what really goes on in their mind. The ending, though, is perfect for a young romantic comedy, and this story again is one that makes you smile with its crisp and quirky narration.

I love epics, and I loved Sreelatha Chakravarty’s ‘Agni’, based on an episode of the Ramayana, where Sita was put to a fire-test to prove her purity. This tale highlights how women are always mistreated and considered with a tinge of doubt. The tale pinches you hard, and makes you think. A very beautiful take on the epic.

I just have one word to say for Rishabh’s ‘Carnival’, the last story in the book, and that is W-O-W. Never ever, and I say NEVER EVER, have I come across a short story that dances with such unimaginable aura of brilliance, a magnificence that can’t be defined via words, but can only be felt if you read it. It’s a perfect closure to the anthology, and you, as a reader, couldn’t have asked for more.

My three favourite stories from the collection would be:

  1. Carnival
  2. Opportunity Knocks But Once
  3. Ayesha

The editing is perfect, and there is hardly any error. I also loved the story behind the cover image. All in all, this is a must-read anthology, by new age writers who really have the potential to emerge highly successful in the literary world in the near future.

  • Rishabh Chaturvedi

    Hi Riya, W-O-W. Thanks a lot for this review. Made my Sunday and that of all other authors. The best review I’ve got for my writing.

    • Rishabh Chaturvedi

      Thanks Amrit Sinha!

  • Sreelatha Chakravarty

    Thanks a lot. I think Carnival is worth a read and a re-read.

  • Vivek Banerjee

    Thanks, VOB and Amrit Sinha. That I am a small part of the book is incidental, but I really loved this book. Good detailed review. Thanks again.