Horror is not a genre I normally favor. But when I heard an Indian author has attempted this genre, I was curious to pick up the book. And Maya’s New Husband did not disappoint me. Having seen the author’s display of writing skills in Maya’s New Husband, picking up his next offering ‘Pishacha’ was a no brainer. Pishacha in some ways has the horror much more toned down making the book accessible to a wider audience. While it too has its share of killings, the author does not delve deep into the minutiae in graphic detail. Also a ‘Pischacha’ does not feel as real to a reader as a flesh and blood mentally deranged man who could be living in our midst passing off as a normal colleague or neighbor.
The premise of the story as the title suggests is about an undead being returning from death to claim the love of his life from the days of his mortal existence. She is now reborn in modern times while he is a supernatural being who has to kill humans and feed on their flesh and blood to keep himself animated. The story takes us through the Pishacha’s journey to bridge this gap between life and death – a journey filled with blood and gore. Meanwhile we are introduced to the life of the lady in question – “Neetika”. We get to know of her boyfriend, her father and her friends. We also see the impact the Pishacha’s intervention has on her life and her attempts to understand and deal with the effects of the same. We also seem to have a seemingly unrelated arc of Nakul going on that ties in nearly towards the end.
The best thing about Neil’s works is the writing. The reader can cut through his writing smoothly like a knife through butter. The whole narrative flows smoothly without any bumps and potholes – the reader can finish the entire book in a single setting. The language level is just right – neither high flowing and flowery that has you rushing for a dictionary every second page nor completely watered down to cater to the tastes of the lowest common denominator. The descriptions are also pretty well done and gives the reader a holistic audio visual olfactory experience.
The other thing I like about Neil’s works is the novelty of the concepts in his book and how he draws from not so well known aspects of local folklore. Last time he took on the concept of aghoris. This time he takes on the concept of pishachas. He has also built a bit of mythos around what exactly is a pishacha as against the other paranormal beings. In this work, we encounter other beings such as rakshashas, dayans and kalinis as well.
People who watch Bollywood paranormal flicks may find the general direction of the plot quite familiar. Ancient love story in the time of kings. Love triangles. Tragic untimely deaths. Characters returning in present times as paranormal beings and reincarnates. Where Neil differentiates himself is in the quality of writing and a bit more fleshing out of the logic of paranormal occurrences. Of course as a hardcore science fiction and fantasy buff, I still find the paranormal world building logic not strong enough. But then this book is for the regular folks not the fantasy buffs. So from that angle it stands notches above Bollywood.
As far as characterization goes, this is again an area of Neil’s strength. He has managed to create multiple memorable characters, all of who remain in the reader’s mind even after completing the book. But one grouse would be that I did not relate to any of the characters of the book. So I was not overtly concerned about the fate of any of them. In fact, the sadistic part of my mind was hoping all characters would commit mass seppukku together towards the end. Of course the pishacha would have found it challenging being already dead. But then he was trying to become mortal again.
Overall a pretty engaging light read that I would recommend to most people. And I am eagerly waiting to see what Neil comes up with next after Aghoris and Pishachas.