Author: Sangeeta Mahapatra
Publisher: Notion Press
Genre: Fiction (horror/suspense)
Price: Rs. 250 (paperback)/66 (kindle)
As the book’s title tells you these stories though short are meant to scare you and not be subtle at doing that. The aesthetic cover page though will calm your senses and tell you that it won’t be that bad, but that is just the beginning. As you read the first story Red Moon is your tester. It being a story of two friends starts gently and then slowly tightens its grip around the reader making them not leave until they finish it, leaving one aghast to say the least, setting a perfect tone for what follows next. Yet you have just had starters here! The main course is still getting laid and if you are anything like an experimental like me waiting for things to scare you, well you have met your match and you will appreciate it in ways you never thought would be creepy.
As Red Moon grows on you, what next follows is a science fiction, into the future story, a completely different setting from the last one and a different madness therein. The story staged as play was the one I read and re read and is one of the best written short stories I came across in a long time. The last story in this collection Deja Vu deals with past life and associations. This being the note where the book ended was certainly the most emphatic one, especially the writing style which brought a complete essence of the concoction of suspense, confusion and terror therein.
Each story is different in every possible manner, the plot, the subject and most of all the justice to the writing style that required madness and that of a different sense while writing about friends to robots to past-present alterations. The stories are not in the strictest sense a horror that would make you jump for once but that mild creepy thing that just gets under your skin and makes you uncomfortable enough to check under your bed each time you think you are sure.
A major mistake most short story writers make in India is that they write their collection at one go and in one tone. While writing a softer genre like love, romance, life etc. it still retains an excitement but writing something in a horror genre is an entirely different piece of cake, one difficult to master. Any repetition and a reader will understand the pattern, leave the book half way and make your efforts go in vain. To keep a reader hooked, for a collection of short stories therefore presents a challenge of changing settings, plot, era, subject matter and most difficult of all the writing style. Experimenting with this I believe could be done if you bake one separately over months of incubation on each and then at the end of it all compiling what you think is your best creation over time. The last shock for me after the book was that this came from a very young writer for she made this huge feat seemingly look like cake work.
The book is one of those things you will miss out on in life if you didn't read. I am a fan of Sangeeta Mahapatra and would love to read each word that comes from her pen. Waiting for more.
Personal note: I am a person who constantly looks for thongs that can scare me. So I picked this book at 2:00am, post the first story I knew this was beyond my perception of what could scare me.
About the Author: Sangeeta Mahapatra is the executive editor of a national business magazine. She has a doctoral degree in International Relations and has previously worked as a research fellow, specializing in Terrorism Studies. She is currently based in Kolkata, India, working on a book on the counter-terrorism strategies of India, Israel, and the United States of America. In 1999, her first book of short stories, Miasma, was published by Chowringhee Prakashini Press, Kolkata. Wreath and Other Stories is her second collection of short stories.