The book’s cover is a mish mash of animated drawings on a bright orange colored background. I suppose the idea was to highlight the diversity of the contents inside, but it turns out to be a little confusing and chaotic. The back has the names of all the contributors and the genres they wrote in. I personally think the title of the book could have been a little more innovative; the use of the word “shades” has become too clichéd.
The ten stories that comprise the book were selected from hundreds of entries sent from aspiring authors during a ten month long competition organized by Fablery in association with Mahaveer publishers. Ten different authors write stories on ten genres-
1. The Incarnadines (Fantasy /Mythology) by Miss Cheyenne Mitchell – A rather boring start for an anthology, this one is a very loosely knitted story. I lost interest midway through the extra long descriptions (which I personally do not like in short stories). I think the author could have done a better job with this one.
2. Red and Gold (Romance) by Monika Pant – Romance is perhaps the most commonly written genres with literally tones of stories written every year. So how is Monika Pant’s story different from the rest? Well, for one she chooses a historical setting for her love story which is a welcome change. The occasional use of Hindi/Urdu terms in the story were perhaps to provide authenticity to the story but looks a tad bit misplaced in a story written in English, especially when the translations in English have not been provided next to the Urdu terms.
3. Harry’s Bluff (Action/ Adventure) by Dr. Roshan Radhakrishnan – Dr. Roshan is an amazing writer and a very experienced blogger who has written some really good stories. Racy, fast-paced, and with good twists, exactly how I love my action stories, one of the better ones in the book.
5. Weekend In That Country (Horror) by Bruce Memblatt – This was perhaps the biggest disappointment. I absolutely love reading horror fiction but this one was so predictable and the lack of innovation in the plot wasn’t some I was expecting from an “award winning” story as the cover of the book claims.
6. Nootropic Egress (Science-fiction) by Karthik L – A good attempt considering sci-fi isn’t a very easy genre to write. What marred the story for me were the very predictable end and the errors in the use of the language. I would have liked it better had the author explained the jargons used for the benefit of the readers who aren’t acquainted with them.
7. The Secret of Ahiraah – My personal favourite from the ten. I loved the beautiful descriptions of the Sonar Killa and the superb twist at the end. This was my first time reading historical fiction and Reshmy sure got me hooked to it. I see a lot of potential in her writing and really looking forward to reading more stories by her.
8. Where Did You Go? (Suspense/Thriller) by Deepa Duraisamy– This is my second favourite from the book. Deepa very successfully manages to keep the suspense intact till the very end, mark of a good thriller. Good use of language and setting with quite a few twists make for a lovely read.
9. Barren Harvest (Philosophical) by Vinaya Swapnil Bhagat– The story is exactly what a story from the philosophical genre should read like. Well written and fairly simple use of language, this one was an average read because of the predictable plot.
10. A Good Day To Die (Occupational) by Rahul Biswas – First of all kudos to Rahul for choosing this genre. He not only created a very well written tale but uses the backdrop of the Mumbai fire department, highlighting the working areas and the hazards of the job to fit perfectly into the requirements of the occupational category. Apart from the tad bit predictable ending I think his story would have easily qualified for the thriller or action category.
Overall opinion- Ten Shades of Life is a brilliant attempt by Nethra Anjanappa in bringing short stories of different genres written by debut authors together compiled into a single book, one of a kind in the country. The only complaint I have is the missing author bios in the book. Since all the contributors in the book are newbies, a section at the end of the books with a line or two about each author and their background would have been a great idea. I hope Nethra makes sure it is added in the next venture in the series. Also, a little more attention should be paid to the editing part which had quite a number of errors. The biggest issue I had with the book is perhaps the minimum word requirement if 3000 words that all the contest entries were supposed to follow. Considering this was a short story contest, a minimum word requirement of 1500 could have done pretty well, some stories I believe had to be stretched a little too far and twists had to be forced into the stories which ruined one of the main features of a short story, its brevity. I would give it a rating of 3 out of 5.