The mind is an unfathomable place. And things can go haywire when mind decides to play games with you. This is exactly what As Death Stared Back by Ajinkya Bhasme is all about. Falling under the psychological horror genre, the twists and turns cannot be missed. In fact, this rather pulsating drama is apparently based on reality.
Sanjana has lost her husband, Punit, and is going to cremate him. As the narrative progresses you slowly understand Punit’s dislike of their five-year-old son, Abhimanyu or Manu, a premature child not upto Punit’s standards. He has even attempted to kill Manu. After Punit’s death, Sanjana and the rather precocious Manu are bonded by nightmares in which Punit is harming Manu. Ten years later, the unimaginable happens: Punit returns home. Who is this imposter? How is he able to slowly make his death a myth? Why is her reality slipping out of her hand? Will she save Manu from the fake Punit’s evil clutches? What is real and unreal? The book delves deep into Sanjana’s journey where sanity is slipping away along with truth.
Ajinkya needs to be appreciated for writing a psychological thriller. Some books falling under this genre lack essence and turn out to be waste of time rather than page-turners. But the author doesn't fall in this trap and has managed to push past this.
The book slowly plays with your mind and you realise that the horror is stuck deep within. You become Sanjana. You slowly follow her anxiety regarding Manu, her complex relation with Punit, the horror she and Manu lived in or are living, and more. The writer within Ajinkya has made sure the readers do not get a chance to stop for a few minutes to catch their breath.
Another fair point is the compact nature of narration. You follow each character’s journey easily. While the back and forth in narration can initially be a little unnerving, Ajinkya’s gripping storytelling keeps things going. The book’s first half does feel too unhurried. But once the story hits second gear, you are in for a ride. The story becomes more psychological and less horror. A word of warning: The unexpected can end hurt you, literally.
Ajinkya Bhasme’s Death Stared Back does full justice to the psychological horror genre. You start rethinking about the mind’s true depth.
Book: As Death Stared Back
Author: Ajinkya Bhasme
Publisher: Paper Towns
Price: Rs. 249