The Other Side of Never, Edited by Marie O’Regan & Paul Kane from @TitanBooks #BookReview #ShortStories #PeterPan #Fantasy
The Other Side of Never, Edited by Marie O’Regan & Paul Kane
Titan Books p/b: UK: £9.99/US: $16.95
Reviewed by Dave Jeffery
The Other Side of Never is an anthology that combines seasoned genre writers such as Paul Finch, Alison Littlewood, Rio Yours, and Muriel Grey and re-imagined stories from J.M. Barrie’s iconic world of Neverland. In the words of award-winning editors Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane, the book aims to provide the reader with “a glimpse of more thought-provoking or ominous alternatives…” of the classic tale. In terms of this, there are some dark themes captured within its pages, as well as adventure and humour, arguably just as important when trying to maintain some level of parity with the source material.
The subjective nature of anthology reviews inevitably means that what works for one reader will not for another, and the overall quality of the book is based on whether the majority of stories hit the mark at any given point. The Other Side of Never certainly does have more effective tales than not, and where the tales lacked, with the exception of one particular story, it was not down to the quality of storytelling but the inventiveness of their central conceit. Again, this will be down to individual reviewers, so it is better to focus on the absolute standout tales with a brief explanation as to why they resonated with this reviewer.
And on ‘til Morning by Laura Mauro – A deft and beautifully told surrealist tale that is both delicate in its delivery yet underscored with a powerful message of hope after great trauma. A personal favourite from the anthology and is, in the view of this reader, a contender for some ‘best of’ lists in the months and years to come.
School for Peters by Claire North – At once a beguiling tale that seamlessly fuses an almost whimsical fairy tale narrative with a bruising parody of consummate privilege, socio-economic injustice, and gender inequality. Satire built on a foundation of ascorbic wit makes this an incredibly provocative read.
Fear of the Pan-Child by Robert Shearman – Phobia and obsession, and a fragile mind are at the heart of this humorous yet insightful tale of a man who becomes an unstable narrator of his own condition. From the sections when ‘Peter Pan’ is redacted to mitigate the phobia of Barrie’s character to the subtle melancholic ambiguity of the final scene, this story is both brilliantly conceived and delivered.
Boy by Guy Adams – Another personal favourite comes as a result of the machine-gun pace at which this story moves. The narrative juxtaposes literary and urban dictionary clichés to describe Pan as a wideboy out on the town, aggrandised and consumed by his own self-importance. A comeuppance is, of course, always on the cards, yet when it finally comes, it still sates and amuses in one satisfying hit.
O’Regan and Kane have pulled the anthology together as only editors with consummate skill and experience can, and in terms of style and delivery, there really is something for everyone. It will be good to see The Other Side of Never take flight in the real world. There is certainly enough here to get anyone ‘hooked’.