From the Darkness book review: Abhishek Ray’s novel couldn’t walk into the light
Set in the bustling lanes of Kolkata, From the Darkness scares the reader into submission and quickens heartbeatsbooks Updated: Jul 07, 2017 10:12 IST
To grasp the meaning of darkness would be to quantify the void, or infinity. It’s a living, breathing entity stretching its shapeless fingers, catching hold of air and blanketing itself ever so slowly over the space you allow it.
Darkness can be everything and nothing. It’s one of the greatest and most versatile subjects to study. Physicists would call it the black hole or the universe. Artists such as Samuel Becket would think of it as ennui. Neverland author Neil Gaiman would describe it as a companion that creeps up on you if you let it. JK Rowling, parent of the Harry Potter series, would say it’s a part of you. And Batman would use it as a cloak to blend into the shadows.
Although it’s employed too often, it’s also bold for anyone to write about darkness. One clichéd move and the dominos will fall. For this lone reason, From the Darkness by Abhishek Ray should be applauded. The novel scares you into submission and quickens your heartbeat by its mere treatment of the element. The dark can be daunting but to overcome it is an achievement.
From the Darkness shifts with stories that merge into the final hunt. Set in the bustling lanes of Kolkata, it succinctly introduces you to a middle-class family and a troubled teenager who lands himself in the middle of vengeful tribal lore.
It takes a few sacrifices, a murder mystery and some gory scenes to know the plot isn’t intricate. Unlike an M Night Shyamalan movie, there are no shocking twists and it almost seems as if the story was written in haste with little dedication to building characters. Telling the dreams of Rohan, a pseudo-ghost whisperer whose visions are clearer when he’s high on marijuana, might have demanded the maximum effort; but even they don’t have real impact. Rohan’s ability to see injustice dims as he falters in understanding his power; until the end when he inexplicably turns from a confused and angry adolescent to an enthusiastic spiritist. The shift never leads to fruition.
The other story, of Rohan’s mother Sonali who battles with her past, appears to be futile because it has little in common with the supernatural climax. The whodunnit murder of a lonely, elderly woman too isn’t sketched evocatively although this is this narrative that ties the plot together.
Canonical writers like Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austen used description as a potent element to tell of an era, of society. While popular fiction doesn’t demand the tracing of table manners or belles at balls, From the Darkness could have been an impressive horror tale if it had properly utilized the City of Joy. The charm of Kolkata, its chaotic burst of humanity and its vibrant culture would have been contrast enough to the superstition that breeds there. But alas, the writing barely focuses on the city.
Read more: Photo Essay: Out of the darkness
If you’re asking, ‘What’s beyond the dark?’ the answer is ‘nothing’. This story might have strolled through darkness but it couldn’t walk into the light.