When different styles of writing come together in an anthology of short stories, the overall impression left on the reader varies. Some might impress more than others, probably. First Brush on the Canvas is an anthology that goes one step further and brings three genres as well as short stories in each genre.
An anthology is different in each author has a different style, a different story to tell us. Time’s Lost Atlas has eleven stories set in various countries and encompassing different major events of the last decade. Try as I did, I couldn’t guess some of the events. Am not very worldly I suppose!
Anyways… quick thoughts on each of the stories…
Kaleidoscope is a collection of twenty five short stories of different genres that were collected and judged as part of a contest done by Springtide and Parlance Publishers. It is a mixed bag of few authors who have already been published before, as well as some debutants.
Thoughts on the cover:
I like toned-down designs and colors, but I feel it could have had a much better cover. For a book of multi genre stories, the cover mainly had sms, and magnifying glass, and musical note etc. I like the arrangement in the shape of the world though. Maybe if it was more to life than just virtual life, it might have been better.
Thoughts on the stories:
Fair warning to readers, there might be spoilers in this part.
I’m going to be giving my short thoughts on each individual story, so this might be a very long review; kindly bear with me. Since it is a multi genre anthology, an overall review might not be justifiable. As always, it is in my order of reading, rather than the order in the book.
01. The Hike to the Temple (by Prasanna Rao): I liked the attempt. But the ending didn’t work as well as it should have. The monster didn’t come across as scary. I couldn’t understand why a character would go on the expedition if they already knew of the rumors, and if that character was affected by the spirits, why would that character act the way he did.
02. Secret of the Murderous Wood (by Sanhita Baruah): The ending was a little predictable, therefore lost the horror it could have got. I think tinkering between the past and present, or maybe doing it from different points of view maybe could have got it out better. Just a suggestion though.
03. Chaos (by Rahul Biswas): I liked the twist, it was different, and for the most part I didn’t see that coming. Though I couldn’t understand how someone who was held down and maybe crucified had as much energy as he did, to do what he did. That part might have been a little more thought out.
04. The White Dress (by Garima Nowal): It is a good story from the viewpoint of a young girl. The thoughts of insecurity and then trust are brought out well, but I could see the ending coming. I also think the title could have been something else. I think “probability of more than 0.5” sounds out of place when it is in thoughts, and the protagonist is worried.
05. The House (by Deboshree Bhattacharjee): I liked the starting, but the build up and ending was interesting, but also confusing. I couldn’t get it immediately.
06. The Boy Who Sold Books (by Anurag Bhatt): I like the thought behind the story, and the helpful nature of the protagonist, but the plot was predictable. A major mistake in this was the confusion between names. First the character is shown as Rajat, and then later as Raghav. In one part of the ending, the protagonist is called by his name, and then suddenly with a term of respect suffixed. It could have been avoided.
07. I Love You Too (by Khushi Gupta): I think the ending was known without the trip to the past, because the last line before the flashback kind of set it up. The idea was good, but maybe the flashback should have started much earlier, or done a different way, to build the ending up.
08. The Domino Effect (by Deepa Duraisamy): I like the idea, to show how one thing sets another rolling, and was almost seamlessly executed. I think if the ending was completely in third person, and didn’t have a line or two in first person, this could have been perfect.
09. The Tale of the Knitting Yarn (by Nabanita Dhar): The narration brings the story to life, but I still feel something lacking. The ending was predictable as well.
10. The Hunter (by Vivek Banerjee): Really loved the flow and till the last paragraph, the twist is not revealed. The twist also blends into the narration making it well written. No particular flaws to point out.
11. The Journey of My Life (by Shishir Dhingra): Feel good love story, but the ending is given away by a combination of the title and part of the flashback. Another thing that I feel didn’t work was the mixed narration. It could have been completely a story type narration, or completely in dialogues. And even in dialogues, “She -” and “Me -” sound out of place.
12. Karma is a Bitch (by Rafaa Dalvi): The story transcends from a little philosophy, to touching erotica a little and then suspense. The erotica was predictable from the way the story it began, but the ending was not. A good story.
13. I ‘Operated’ (by Smriti Mahale): Subtle humor was there through the story, and it worked for me. The worry of the protagonist also came through, but I didn’t quite get the ending. Maybe if I read it again a few times, I might understand.
14. Redemption (by Harihar Adarsh): A fantasy tale, about the effect of power on young minds, and not being taught well. It was a good story, albeit a little rushed in its execution.
15. Happy Puppet (by Bhavya Kaushik): A sad condition to be stuck in, and the ending isn’t predictable. The narration of that predicament was brought out well.
16. The Star That Shines On Me (by Parul Tyagi): A very different story, and an interesting way to deal with a tough situation. This is a story that’s difficult for me to tell whether I liked or not. It was a little here and there. It’s not bad though.
17. Voice Male (by Renuka Vishwanathan): Totally predictable from the title itself, and an ending reminiscent of an episode from The Big Bang Theory. The infatuation was brought out well, but not one of my favorite stories.
18. The Unknown Destination (by Aniruddh Naik): I liked the technique used to create interest in the history involved, because historical events when narrated blandly don’t hold interest. That being said, the ending was rushed and I felt it wasn’t done justice. A good attempt that could have been better.
19. Food (by Vaibhav Mukhim): Sci-fi is not always my cup of tea, and this tale didn’t help sweeten the tea either. Hazy plot, and though the beginning got the suspense element going, it didn’t hold till the end.
20. First Contact (by Aman Mathur): Second sci-fi I read. I felt the beginning to be drawn out, and the ending unpredictable. Good buildup as well. Interesting read indeed.
21. Theory of Evolution (by Balaganesh Pitchai): Very rarely does my random order of reading end up with three similar genres back-to-back. The names and narration were perfectly in tune with the genre. A good read.
22. Crazy Scarf (by Prabhat Singh): Got a chuckle at the ending, though it was a sad one. However, the ending was predictable from the place of residence.
23. Alive Inside (by Nehali Lalwani): I like the idea, though it is not new and the plot line is predictable. Though I don’t know if anyone stuck in a strange place for the night would willingly start to interact with their hosts and ask them personal questions. I for one would just be looking for the night to get over and get out of there as quickly as possible.
24. When Love Oozed Out Blood (by Ayush Agarwal): The start took it into suspense genre, the middle and the end took the suspense out and it ended up being no particular genre, maybe love or cultural or a bit of both at most. The conclusion thought, which is what he wanted to show, could’ve come out a lot better.
25. The Last Date (by Saravana Kumar Murugan): I think the story is a good one, but it could be a lot better. The love between the couple is shown well, but I feel that the ending was overcooked. It needn’t have been taken to such an extreme to justify why it was a “last date”.
I’ve put across thoughts on each story. But what I found lacking most in the collection overall was editing. When presented well, without typos and grammatical mistakes, an average story can still pull above its weight. In a similar way, when a great story is presented shoddily, it falls below that mark. Most stories here are simple in plotting, so this lack of editing pulls it down. Even in general areas, there were mistakes, like an author’s name being published with a typo, or the title of a story being published different in the contents page. Avoiding these would’ve made it a lot better.
Authors: Multiple Authors
Editor: Pawas Jain, Springtide
Genre: Multiple Genre
Publishers: Parlance Publishers
Price: INR. 150
(July 10th, 2013)
About the editor:
Nethra is a student based in Bangalore pursuing her Masters in Business Administration. She is a voracious reader and a writer of fictions, the love for which made her begin Fablery, a platform which provides aspiring authors a gateway into the publishing world.
The book in a nutshell:
Ten Shades of Life is an anthology of short stories. Unlike most anthologies I have seen, the book doesn’t stick to one particular genre, rather it has ten stories from ten different genres. It is the culmination of monthly contests in each genre held in 2012, the ten stories the ten chosen winners of each month.
The book has stories from the genres (in order of content): Fantasy, Romance, Action/Adventure, Humor, Horror, Science Fiction, Historical, Mystery/Thriller, Philosophical and Occupational.
Delving into the stories:
When the book has stories from different authors, a summary of the positives and negatives might not give an overall picture. Since the number of stories in the book is less, I give you my thoughts on each story quickly.
I’m going in the order that I’ve read the stories, and not according to the contents page.
#1: The Secrets of Ahiraah (Reshmy Pillai, Historical): I’ve not read a lot of historical fiction, and this short story was perhaps my first Indian-based historical fiction. What I liked in the story was the pace and the detailing. I could imagine the story reading it out loud, and I could finish it quickly. I liked the character of Jatindev Oswal as well. I have a small doubt regarding the outcome of a couple of actions of characters, but I’ll not reveal those doubts as it possibly might give away the ending (a tendency I usually have but am trying to get out of). Overall, it was really enjoyable.
#2: Where did you go? (Deepa Duraisamy, Mystery): Though I label it mystery, I do have to say the story to me had the thriller element too. What I liked in the story was the plotting, which seems believable and in India, I can imagine it happening as well. The story held my attention and I didn’t stop reading till I finished. What I didn’t like was her choice of character names, and one particular choice made by a character, which felt oddly unrealistic (in the sense, it may have been better brought out). Overall, it was another story I found really enjoyable.
#3: Red and Gold (Monika Pant, Romance): One of my more preferred genres for reading and writing, her story added the historical touch to it. What I liked in the story was the romance. It felt nice to read that power true love can have, and the lengths the lovers can go to keep it. The language was simple and it was well written. What I didn’t like in the story was a lot of Hindi words spread across it. The setting, I agree, calls for it, but I couldn’t understand the meanings of the words. Also, few subcharacters didn’t get an ending, and it stood out because their place in the story to me elevated them to nearly a main character itself. Overall, the story works well, but the downsides were a little too big.
#4: The Incarnadines (Cheyenne Mitchell, Fantasy): Fantasy is something that to me that has magic and mythological sounding characters or such as the main plot setting. It’s that magic part that should stand out. This story felt more like a family trouble story where the protagonist is telling of her problems, or just narrating a belief. That’s the main reason why this wasn’t one of my favorites. What I liked in the story is the character of the protagonist. A lone child with family issues seems very likely to go into a fantasy world. Overall, I didn’t find it impressive.
#5: A Nootropic Egress (Karthik L, Scifi): I found this story appealing. It’s a mix of sci-fi and a mystery because that’s how he’s woven the plot. What I liked in the story was the character of Rohit. It kind of reminds me of a cartoon, Dexter of Dexter’s laboratory. Rohit felt like a right character for a sci-fi story. The names of the characters also felt very interesting, and especially the character of Trnzu felt so realistic in ways. The ending also brought a chuckle, though I was expecting that ending in a way. What I didn’t like in the story was a big error in proofreading, one that got me ROFL. The other thing I felt was a little too much toward the investigative part. I’d have loved to read more of the sci-fi way. But the story otherwise works quite fine to me. One of the better ones in the book.
#6: Something like that (Shankar Raman, Humor): The only thing I know of Wodehouse is that there’s a character named Jeeves. (Note to self: Start reading Wodehouse this year). So now that I’ve confessed my lack in reading the genre of humor, I’ll state that this story was definitely humorous, and as a college student who caught on to teachers’ habits quite quickly, I could understand and enjoy the story! What I liked was the character sketching of the main protagonists. And definitely the ending that caught me off guard and left me laughing out loud for awhile. The story has humor spread in little chuckles and smiles through narration, so the ending just works. What I didn’t like was when a portion went a little serious. But that’s not a big drawback. Again, one of the better ones in the book.
#7: A good day to die (Rahul Biswas, Occupational): I liked the characters in the story, and the language just brings that story out. I think the plot warranted for a very detailed sort of opening, that makes you get lost in the narration and bring out the effect. It had that. It had that conflicting opening that makes you wonder what happened and why the character is in that place. So brilliant. What I didn’t like was that I could predict that ending a little. It isn’t a dramatic setback though.
#8: Barren Harvest (Vinaya Swapnil Bhagat, Philosophical): This again felt like it was cross-genre. I agree that the borders are thin between genres at times, but I felt it to be leaning toward a sci-fi at times. That being said, I understood the philosophy of thought put forth and I think it was a different way to do it. I liked the story for that reason, and though the narration seemed heavy at times to me, I think the emotion came out fine. The story was good. What I didn’t like was what I told earlier, that I felt the story to be leaning a little more toward being sci-fi. Also, I felt that the mother not identifying her daughter felt a little too fictional. But I guess the time the story is set in, it could happen.
#9: Weekend in the Country (Bruce Memblatt, Horror): One of my friends says that for genres like horror, the language must be such that you set-up the reader to feel the chills down the spine, make him imagine it. I agree, and though some parts of this story did have that sort of language, I personally didn’t feel that scared. I could predict the ending to a large extent, that such-and-such would happen. The instruments used as scary would definitely bring a chill down the spine if you were to find it, and I give the story props for that. But it left me somewhat disappointed. Good, but could’ve been a whole lot better.
#10: Harry’s bluff (Roshan Radhakrishnan, Action): I kept the action genre to the end because it’s one that needs to be quick paced, and flowing from scene to scene. It’s the perfect ending to a cocktail of genres. This story, in my opinion, did bring that pace out well. I like the flashback that’s incorporated into it, and the editing to hold thoughts in italics was quite good. The character sketch was done nicely as well, and I like that the main character did what he did. What I didn’t like was the character of Selena. Though the mothering of the protagonist comes well, it felt too domineering. The story was a good ending to my read.
For this book to have happened, there was a lot of hard work, but it was because of the authors mainly. It wouldn’t have been a book if they hadn’t put an effort to write the stories! So, I don’t like that there aren’t any author bios in the book. Atleast a paragraph on each at the end of the book would’ve been good, if not a page before each story, because as a reader, I’d also want to know a little bit about the author. I also found a few typos, but not all of them stood out and hindered the reading. I’d have chosen a different color for the cover too. However, for the cocktail of genres to work, it has to mix well. In my opinion, it does. Some stories weren’t that appealing, but most of them were well written and held my attention. They also delivered on what they promised genre-wise, and some are re-readable. Kudos to the effort, and I await the next instalment.
Title: Ten Shades of Life – Fablery
Author: Multiple authors
Genre: Multi-genre anthology
Price: INR. 139
(March 21st, 2013)