Book Reviews,  Others

#Review: Shades of Mortality by Jamal Barbari

Shades of Mortality (Stories from the Lost and Found)
Author: Jamal Barbari
Publisher: Self-published
Rating: 4/5

In his debut short story collection, Shades of Mortality, Jamal Barbari introduces a trio of time-travelling, universe-hopping storytellers who explore profound themes of life, death, love, and despair. Each narrative is accompanied by a unique illustration by one of nine artists, enhancing the immersive experience with distinct visual styles.

Barbari’s strength lies in crafting engaging tales that range from heart-wrenching tragedies to light-hearted comic escapades. His prose is evocative, drawing readers in with vivid descriptions and compelling characters. The diversity of artistic styles further immerses readers into Barbari’s multifaceted worlds.

“Please Sign Here” and “Breaking and Baking” humorously depict family dynamics centred around food and sustenance. In “Please Sign Here,” a father-son bond forms over spicy chicken wings, starting with a mischievous prank and evolving into a secret tradition after the mother bans wings. Years later, the narrator gets revenge by tricking his dad into eating the restaurant’s spiciest wings. Meanwhile, “Breaking and Baking” portrays a child’s forbidden quest for cookies with rich, sensory details, capturing the tension and determination in a whimsical tone. Both stories excel in vivid descriptions and engaging humour, though they occasionally suffer from predictability and rhythm problems.

The collection also includes “No Smoking” and “Golu, the God of Luck,” offering diverse explorations of human desires and needs woven into their narratives. “No Smoking” employs raw, gritty language, while “Golu, the God of Luck” blends fantasy with whimsy, delivering broader messages about human nature, from childhood cravings to societal critiques and the pursuit of love and fortune.

“A City Stroll” offers a contemplative narrative exploring themes of solitude and curiosity through the narrator’s observations of city inhabitants—a woman smoking, a homeless man, a busy baker, and a passionate saxophonist. The narrator’s persistent questions about their loneliness reflect their own isolation. While rich in sensory details and poetic tone, the story occasionally feels repetitive and lacks concrete resolutions, leaving readers seeking more clarity.

Lastly, “Nothing But Ink” is a chilling exploration of memory and guilt, where the narrator, possibly a personification of ink and paper, taunts the reader with details of a dark deed committed on their birthday. The narrative thrives on its eerie atmosphere and provocative questions about the nature of memory and remorse. While vivid and evocative, the story’s strength lies in its ambiguity and psychological tension, which may unsettle some readers.

Despite occasional pacing issues and heavy-handed exposition, Shades of Mortality remains a compelling and imaginative collection. The cover? It’s chaotic in appearance but comprises certain symbolic elements that showcase the effort taken to craft it! Barbari’s ability to traverse different genres and emotional landscapes makes this book a fascinating read, complemented by the accompanying illustrations that enrich each story. It’s a must-read for fans of speculative fiction and short stories, offering a blend of narrative depth and visual artistry that enhances the reading experience.

Best wishes to the author!

Find this book here.

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