Tuesday, December 18, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥: Anthology I: The Other Side by Hamidah Gul

Anthology I: The Other Side
Hamidah Gul

Page Count: 121
Release Date: 9 August 2012
Publisher: Lulu (self-published)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

A collection of stories about things that go bump in the night. Stories about the end of the world, what happens when your wishes come true, and when your emotions become your darkest enemy.

1. "The Suicide Case"—A story about how three lives are intertwined to balance the scales between good and evil.

2. "Come Home with Me"—Never invite her to come home with you. She will never leave till you are dead.

3. "The Other Side"—This story is written in the point of view of one man who witnesses the end of the world.

4. "Mission of Mercy"—This story is written in the point of view of the one who will end the world. This story is linked to The Other Side.

5. "The Best Friend"—Ever wondered what your best friend is thinking when she is smiling at you?

6. "The Lonely Heart"—A young man ponders the end of his life after being rejected by society and family but not everything is what it seems.

7. "Mary had a Little Lamb"—A young woman who receives a disturbing prophecy that someone she loves will end her life and the desperate measures she takes to keep that from happening.

8. "Mother and the Birds"—Flash fiction of what a mother wants her son to learn.

9. "The Death Star"—A story in the voice of a young star looking for his purpose in space and finally finding it.

10. "Children of the Mist"—Wishes do come true but at what expense? Five young children were given their dreams and now the time has come for them to make a choice whether they want to keep their dreams.

Review


Gul creatively captures the importance of perspective in fiction and in reality because, as we all know: there are two sides to every story... oftentimes, there are even more. It's difficult to sympathize with the enemy, the side we never consider, or the random passersby in a catastrophic incident, but in the balance of things, their stories matter just as much as the main point of view does. In The Other Side, readers delve into the minds of murderers, residents of nature, suicide victims, monsters, aliens, ghosts, both predator and prey, as well as destruction incarnate; the minds of the inanimate and insane that we'd never, ever imagine on our own.

The blurry issue of perception intrigues me greatly, which is why I think Gul hit home with the concept of writing from the ill-exposed "other side." However, there are many areas where this book is lacking, one being the grammar. I can excuse typography errors in a book (even big-house publishers' editors slip past a few misspellings and punctuation mistakes here and there), but poor grammar—especially when it's recurring—docks points overall because it detracts from reading flow as a whole. Gul seems to have trouble distinguishing between the past and present tenses, as well as between active and passive verbs. I expect these writing conventions to be followed in a published work; even if the author's first language is not English, there should have been an editor involved before marketing The Other Side. Overall, it made the voice very stiff and awkward. The anthology itself is very short, with easily manageable short stories, but because of the poor diction, I had some difficulty with it.

Here are my mini reviews for each of the stories in order of which they appear in the collection:

"Come Home With Me": Short and sweet story about soul-stealing spirits, their lure, and their resulting destruction. Chilling, deeply disturbing, and only lasts for a flash before it's over. One of my favorites!

"The Other Side": The human perspective of the apocalypse. Interesting idea, but unnecessarily lengthy and detailed. I had trouble following after the first few pages, but do understand the overall plot thanks to the followup story from a different point of view...

"Mission of Mercy": Fabulous retelling of "The Other Side" but from the aliens' point of view. Raises the perpetually spine-tingling question of what if? and will make readers double-take on the implications of unknown sides of a story. Moving, well-written, and much clearer in structure than the previous story.

"The Best Friend": A brief, surprising, and cheeky piece of flash fiction. I loved the twist in the end, as well as the author's amusing insinuations regarding a man's best friend.

"The Lonely Heart": Rich in language and poignant in message, this story details on a neglected son's unwillingness to hold on and his hardworking mother's misunderstanding of the world. Depressing tone with literary merit.

"Mary Had a Little Lamb": One of the more gruesome, more horrific stories in the collection. Very intense, up to the point where I thought it was rather melodramatic, but it's still an eerie read that teaches you never to forget those you love... because they just might kill you in the end.

"Mother and the Birds": The shortest, but most powerful story in the book that places readers in the minds and hearts of a particular animal of nature. We as humans may not understand nature, but this extended metaphor will tragically demonstrate what it is that sets us apart from it.

"Children of the Mist": Another compelling idea for a story, involving another hypothetical situation that constantly asks what if? We all have wishes, but what if they actually came true? "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it"—this lesson, our protagonists painfully and devastatingly learn.

"The Suicide Case": I didn't really like this one because I don't fully understand it. It has shifting perspectives involving a several deaths and a resonating message about the importance of life, but it just didn't stick with me.

Love

You close your eyes to the ugliness of the world, and you revel in the silence that slumber brings as you tumble into serenity.

Pros


Fascinating concept regarding perspective play // Straightforward voice // Spine-chilling // Variety of stories // Short, quick reads // Pocket-sized book

Cons


Grammar errors, rather than typos; in desperate need of revision and editing  // Some stories difficult to make sense of // Overall awkward in tone

Verdict


The Other Side is a groundbreaking, spellbinding collection of short stories that goes where no book has gone before by probing the darkest recesses of the "other" minds. While I didn't care for the frequent grammatical errors because they made the narrative tone choppy and awkward, the concept is novel, invigorating, and refreshing, so I do recommend you give it a try.

6 hearts: Satisfying for a first read, but I'm not going back. ♥♥♥♥♥♥