Note: I want to start off with a warning. It’s not easy reviewing a collection of short stories. I have refrained from spoilers as much as possible, “as possible” being the operative phrase. In any case, I’ll type in the phrase SPOILERS AHEAD if I slip. Kudos)
Scary stories are my drug of choice. Nothing matches the thrill of a well-written tale of terror and then staying awake at night, trying to get your imagination under control. Your surroundings take on an air of strangeness. Every rustle becomes a whisper, every shadow a living (or not-so-living) being, every creak, every gurgle puts you on edge. Not many willingly put themselves through this. Few can make it through the night.
The Other Side by Faraaz Kazi and Vivek Banerjee promises its readers a “tour de force of unadulterated terror”. To which I say- Well no. If you want to be scared out of your wits, I would encourage you to direct your attention elsewhere. Kazi and Banerjee need a little more practice in this department. What they give you is a mixed bag in its truest sense. Each one tries to play on a different fear: the fear of death, losing someone, going insane, embarrassment and, of course, the unknown. Some are eerie, some accidentally hilarious (Mark of the Beast left me rolling on the floor but also mildly grossed-out by what the end implied), some blasé (Booo. And not in the ghostly sense either). Many were too similar to stories I had heard many, many times before (story number 11 Possession was *SPOILER AHEAD* pretty much an Indian version of The Conjuring) which kind of ruined any intended element of surprise.
What the two authors did however manage to do is impress me with some of the sheer creepiness. Dream Girl and Red Bangles are by far the stand-out little jewels of the lot because they are just incredibly disturbing. I am not even exaggerating. They probably pained me more because of the 800 steps back for feminism and women’s safety they represent. Anyhow, I digress. What I mean to say is that the fantastic bit about The Other Side is that every single reader will feel differently about it because everybody fears different things. Some are concrete- like snakes and bad grades. Some are more amorphous. So don’t take my word for it. If your interest is slightly piqued, buy, borrow or issue the book. Turn the lights down low, huddle up in your quilt and turn that first page.
P.S Don’t forget to have somebody willing to put up with your shivering mess afterwards on speed dial.