Book Review: Stories From Another Universe by Johan Kassim
But for our thoughts think above that which is real,
Thinking above reality makes in itself the legality,
Of a deluded soul,
Of an obsessed mind…
Stories from Another Universe is an anthology featuring tales from a universe called Aetherens. The people living in it are called Autherens, which the author explained that their lives are already “authored”. To put it simply, their entire life was fated by the gods who governed them from above.
This collection of stories is one of the most distinct reads I’ve ever experienced. I was confused and lost at first reading. My expectations hindered me from appreciating what this book has to offer. I read the foreword written by the author and look at the book’s themes in a different light.
Aetherens is not Earth after all. This universe has its own set of rules that may be different from what the earthlings are used to. As soon as viewed it that way, I finally got to admire what Johan Kassim has put together. Aetherens is a complex and unconventional world wherein those who believe in gods thrive. Although it’s a short book, this requires more analysis and deep-thinking that can’t be done in one sitting.
Book I: A Story of Missed Opportunities Review
This story is about the love of Steve and Michelle, the redemption of a mother, and the concept of being happy in the afterlife. It’s full of unexpected twists and turns that it became so unpredictable. This may be a page-turner or messy, depending on which type of reader you are.
Everything happened so fast. The concept of time in this universe is very different from what we are used to. Or, the concept of this story is just too broad to contain in 65 pages. Most of the characters aren’t as fleshed out. I found it hard understanding the characters’ motivation.
Some minor characters can be written out without having much effect on the story. I think Dave and Sarah’s characters are not really necessary. One of their dialogues even got under my skin.
“But how? How could you love me knowing that I would not be faithful to you? Ever!”
“Well, you like boys and girls, right?” Sarah asked.
“Well, if I was with you, I would be in heaven. Then, I can have all the boys I like.”
Maybe I was wrong for referencing bisexuality as we see on earth. As far as I know, being a bisexual is not an excuse for infidelity. It’s just a label for attraction in both genders. We, the readers, don’t have a clear idea what really is true in Aetherens. Maybe bisexual Autherens need both genders while in a relationship, so, who knows?
Love is also used so conveniently in this story. How can you tell someone that you love them after just one scene together? I wish love, infatuation, lust, and obsession are tackled more. There are definitely some gray areas that require this sort of attention. However, I wish falling in love on Earth is just as easy as falling in love on Aetherens. The people there are bold enough to settle with someone they are in love with, having no fear of what’s to come in the future.
The ending parts blew my mind, in a good way. It was as if I was watching an episode of the Twilight Zone. Again, the complexities of this universe are just too broad that it seemed that it was too rushed. Bottom line, this story has a great potential for a full-length sci-fi novel. It seemed like one of those “missed opportunities.”
Book II: Other Stories from the Autherens
These are one-shot stories of other Autherens. Kassim showed that this universe is extensive and it is still expanding. In order to understand the intricacies of this world, the author created stories other than romance. Some of the stories are really interesting and satisfying. I liked the story of the ‘Elephant and the Egg’ the most.
It was not stuck with the view of birth through its own way, but accepted all views. For how could it not, when its best friend came from the unexpected place of its favourite toy?
It was the closest story that abides some of the philosophical rules we have on Earth. It’s about putting aside one’s ego to believe the truth. Humility is needed to accept that you are wrong and to love someone or something truly.
Some of the stories like ‘Who Founded Seriatton? The Beauty of Contrasts!’ and ‘Hiroshi Magash Worships Teo Foi San’ need more time to develop. It has a lot of information that can be hard for the readers to understand. These types of stories must have a solid world-building. Nevertheless, they have the potential to be great stories.
Book III: From the Aetherens to the Autherens: Poems of a Lost to Authentic Solar Nexus
Among the three parts, Book III is the one I found that is grounded in the reality of Earth. This contains a collection of poems that seem like a testament to why the author created this whole book. Disclaimer: the following statements will just be my own interpretations of the passages in some of the poetry.
They calmly accept my plea,
For a life of carefree desires,
Controlled by a will to be free.
Unlike Earth, Aetherens allows people to be free as long as they abide the gods above them. We are stuck in an everyday grind to survive in this planet. On the other hand, in that universe, idealism wins. Anyone can be a dreamer, as long as you believe.
Pretending to quieten the screams,
Of having lived pretentious lives,
Full of make believe,
Full of fantasy
What makes a hollowed world? Based on these lines, it is being distracted to vices that we forgot what truly matters. We always find the need to show off our material possessions while neglecting our faith, morals, and values.
I lost it all forever,
It has never returned to the same,
When time crushes and smashes all,
It leaves us to the churning of pain,
To realize, I’ve lost it all!
It’s about reaching for dreams but failing in the process. ‘Lost It All’ shows the grief of a dreamer that was once very passionate.
My hope is to rebel against thee,
For in repelling you, World,
We become more than you could,
We become one with the one who made you.
In our desire to destroy you,
We build the things that fall,
We guide the things that fail,
We sew the things that tear, and
We dry all the tears of man’s sorrow in you.
I think that this passage support what I said earlier. Earth has turned people so jaded that they got fed up and started to be the ‘captain of their own ship’. It’s about owning up to oneself and standing up for their dreams.
Stories from Another Universe’is not as straightforward as most fantasy and sci-fi anthology books I've read. Some people might find it difficult to understand, more so, digest the messages it wants to deliver. What I love about this book is that it opened up a discussion of different interpretations. The readers make their own rules. The readers have the freedom to be as creative as possible. That made a huge difference to this mundane predictable world.