Spooky situations that feel all too real, magical creatures and some existential horror! Our preteen reviewer Aditi Amritesh gives Ruskin Bond’s Whispers in the Dark, an anthology of supernatural tales published by Puffin Books, 3.5 stars. She also gives us her own take on horror…read on!
Here’s my review of Whispers in the Dark, which looks excitingly spooky! Will you dare to continue?!
(Note: Horror is not my genre, but I’m reviewing this book, paying no heed to my tastes. As I read this book, my brain was screaming ‘TURN BACK!’ but I finished it for the sake of this review. And… I do not regret my decision!!)
If you’re a horror enthusiast looking for a psychological scare or a jumpscare (anything scary, really) I’d recommend you play a video game like Five Nights at Freddy’s or maybe play Undertale and kill everyone, but don’t come hunting for this book. It won’t satisfy your ‘taste for the macabre’ or ‘send a delicious shiver down your spine’ like the blurb on the back cover suggests, because this book does neither.
Whispers in the Dark by Ruskin Bond takes a bunch of horror tropes (ghosts, murder, blah blah blah…) and spins them into a series of not-so-scary stuff. Sure, most stories involved an apparition at the door or a killer, but few were legitimately scary. My guess is that the author was trying to aim his book towards kids of ages 9 to 11. However, in some instances, I felt maybe not, as the book contains mature references at various points. And some of the stories are actually a bit scary; themes of suicide and being tired of life are referred to, adding a little bit of out-of-place existential horror. Peculiarly enough, some stories did not contain any form of horror at all, just mysterious or magical creatures.
All the stories are nicely told, many from a first-person perspective (which gives it a ‘this happened to me’ air, that give the spooky feeling that the stories might be real) and some from the third-person (giving the reader an ominous, ‘I’m watching you’ feeling). The detailed description in conjunction with the subtle but rich imagery, as expected from Ruskin Bond, helped me picture exactly what was going on in the stories. This writing style upped the spook level of the scarier stories, while it made the not-so-scary ones enjoyable. Of course, this beautiful style and effortless execution of the stories comes naturally to the talented Mr. Bond.
My rating: 3.5 stars
This book even inspired me to write a peculiar story of my own (this is the surprise)!
ADITI’S HORROR STORY
One day, I was walking down the street. It was nice weather – a chilly October evening in London. I fished in my backpack for my jacket but for some reason, couldn’t find it. Never mind, I thought, though I felt a bit strange because I always have my coat, my journal, my phone and my favourite pen in my backpack. I must have left my coat back where I had breakfast. So I turned around and took a brisk walk back to the cake place where I had had my breakfast (I had guiltily walked in there while exploring suburban London and ended up having a brownie for breakfast…). I walked in and picked up my coat, noticing it also had my nephew’s gold wedding ring in its’ pocket. Thank goodness I came back! I thought to myself as I retrieved my coat and put on the ring for safety. I continued walking back down the street to the place where my hotel was. Suddenly, when I had walked a bit further away, something very peculiar happened. The chirping of birds and the rustling of trees in the occasional gust of wind stopped. I heard a voice call out from somewhere… I don’t know where, it was as if it was calling out inside my head.
Now whatever that was, it REALLY scared me. I started running down the street until I reached the hotel. I didn’t even know who I was running from, or what. I just RAN. When I got to my room, I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down. I heard a weird noise outside. “Oh, there’s a wolf.” I said to myself. I looked outside and saw a small dog.
No human can resist small dogs, so I stepped outside, but the dog was gone. It just disappeared! Vanished! Poof! What just happened? Was I going mad?
I then decided to stay inside my room and maybe try to take a nap – I had not slept well for the past few nights and was probably over-tired and thus seeing and hearing things. But suddenly, I felt myself being pushed out of my bed, and my legs were walking, though I didn’t want to move. I was walking down the street (unwillingly) until I finally regained my legs.
Suddenly, my nephew appeared. He was to be married in two days but now here he was, right in front of me, floating two feet above the ground. He laughed loudly, a laugh that sounded like gurgling water. But his face wasn’t smiling.
And then I fell unconscious.