By Faraaz Kazi & Vivek Banerjee. Grade: B
Reviewing a collection of short stories is much more different from a novel, a task made all the more daunting a prospect when the book has been co-authored. There is only so much you can talk about; picking plots from individual short stories makes the review too disconnected, something common with such books. A book with two authors of distinctive writing styles, writing multiple short stories for one book; having a specific, particular opinion about the whole written piece is scarcely a viable option. Thus, one has no option but to judge based on whether the pros outweigh the cons, and fixate on the less transient aspects of it.
Speaking of the less transient aspects, the cover of the book does catch one’s eye (not necessarily in a good way). Most books in the horror genre tend to have a subtle cover, giving a glimpse of the feared unknown and leaving the rest to imagination. The Other Side tends to shatter all such paradigms with its Goosebumps-esque cover. The glowing eyes, walking dead, randomly placed gravestones, bats, skulls with glowing eyes, a creepy mansion and a full moon to boot, makes the book seemingly targeted at an audience in the lower age bracket. Of course, the red, dripping marker font and teasers like “…-the fear of the UNKNOWN!” doesn’t go a long way in redeeming that.
From the back cover:
“A slow rasping sound made me turn. I jumped back, the cell phone leaving my hands and smashing against the concrete floor. Someone was seated on the chair, rocking back and forth. Through the fallen light, I could see those hands placed on the arms of the chair, two gruesome wrinkled limbs with ugly boils plastered over the black skin. The red bangles on its wrists shone in my eyes, momentarily blinding me. That thing and I call it a thing because I could sense it wasn’t human as no human could have such a hideous form, as vile an existence as the one seated opposite to my horrified self.”
From a honeymoon in the hill that goes horribly wrong to an obsessed lover who wants his first love in life and in death; From a mentally deranged man who collects body parts of various women to stitch together his dream girl to a skeptic who enters a mansion of horrors to win a bet and much more, this book is filled with scenarios that are guaranteed to give you goosebumps and sleepless nights.
‘The Other Side’ is a collection of thirteen tales of the paranormal; a world that our eyes refuse to see, our ears deny hearing and our senses ignore the feel of. This is a book for someone who is brave enough to take up this invitation to journey through uncharted waters along with the authors, who were inspired by some bizarre experiences to pen down this work where the lines of reality have been blurred by the footsteps of imagination.
Each story takes you on a tour de force of unadulterated horror and draws upon the deepest fear in the human mind- the fear of the UNKNOWN!
The collection of short stories within leaves a reviewer torn. A word to describe the book that comes to mind is ‘erratic’. Some of the stories are so perplexing, so bafflingly predictable that you’re left speechless because of the sheer lack of allure that a horror story’s suspense creates. Admittedly, I did read the book in broad daylight, yet it is highly doubtful that that was the reason for my criticism. A good tale of the horror category pulls the reader into the novel, making them view the story through the (quite possibly, soon to be dead) protagonist, and giving them many a sleepless night in return. Some short narratives in this book, however, make the reader feel like the author is giving them a ‘what-will-happen-is-so-obvious-let’s-just-mess-around-with-the-characters’ wink. If anything, they could only be good for the reader’s ego, making them go “Yeah, I guessed that ending four paragraphs ago”.
At times, it becomes hard to comprehend that the stories were written by the same two co-authors. With all the criticism against the stories (‘some’ of them, as I’ve repeatedly said), one mustn’t let the almost works of art be overshadowed. Some of the short stories are so remarkable, so impressive and so absolutely stunning that they leave you breathless by the time you get to the ultimate full stop. A notable short story is ‘Possession’, although having parts of it slightly resembling the movie Exorcist, practically entraps the reader into the story until it ends. I hate myself for kind of reducing the suspense a little, but the ending is so skillfully executed, it hits one like a cold, hard slap, and leaves an almost audible shiver running down the spine. The epilogue too is very well written.
The book might lack consistency, but it doesn’t lack the flavor. The authors have not bothered with the concept of happy endings whatsoever, which, for this genre, definitely working in their favor. It invites a love-hate relationship with the reader, making it more a matter of individual opinion than anything else. For the better short stories not being in a number as great as I’d have liked, I’d give the book a ‘B’.