Marijuana Diaries - Book Review

It is becoming a regular trend for bloggers and amateur writers to come together and put up a collection of small stories. I myself have been part of three such projects and looking to be part of couple of more such projects in the coming year. The stories are either written by pre-selected set of authors or outcome of open contests. Big publishing houses generally tend to go for contests while self-published books tend to be a project by a set of authors working together. Startup publishing houses go both ways. In terms of genres and themes, big publishing houses seem risk averse and opt only for romance. Startup publishing houses on the other hand seem open to experiment. This particular anthology I write about - ‘Marijuana Diaries’ is one such experiment by Fablery. They have already brought out a couple of anthologies based on contests organized at their site. In this one, the editor seems to have picked a set of authors and asked them to write. For generic themes like romance, contests work best. However for a theme like addiction, I feel this idea of choosing authors and asking them to write on different aspects of the theme ensures a broader coverage. 

The addictions covered here are those of sex, drugs, food, alcohol, work, television, romance, hobbies and social media. Each story deals with how the addiction impacts the life of the protagonist and the people around them. While in some stories the addiction is central to the story, in others it happens to be peripheral. In a theme based anthology I would have preferred every story to have addiction as the central theme. Also from a broader coverage perspective addiction to relationships, revenge, religion, ideologies and ambitions are ones that were prominent by their absence. 

As far as the title goes, it is appropriate and kind of conveys the theme. But when I browse the internet I find a more famous book already existing with this title. So this might cause the book to lose out on internet searches – not sure how much that medium contributes to book sales. The cover image is simple and elegant but not sure if it conveys clearly the theme of the book or in some way piques the curiosity of readers. There is a line drawing of contours of a woman who is smoking with the names of the authors floating all around her. To me, it conveys a picture of an addicted woman. Most of the authors are women and most of the protagonists in the stories are women as well. But there are exceptions to both – we have two stories by men and a story by a woman author with a male protagonist as well.   

Coming to the stories, they are mostly character based and closer to literary fiction as they focus on psyche exploration. All the stories are written reasonably well and I must congratulate all the authors for the commendable effort on their part. However I cannot say any of the stories really left a strong impact on me as such. But that could also be due to the fact that I possibly am not the intended audience for this book. Some reviewers can really keep aside their genre preferences and judge stories purely on merit. Unfortunately I am not one of those. I am a hardcore speculative fiction buff and in terms of serious reading as well, attracted more to the abstract and conceptual. So simple stories grounded in realism are hardly likely to cut much ice with me. I was aware of this even as I picked up this book and probably would not have but for the fact that I count many of the authors included in this anthology among my friends.

On a closing note, I must mention I found the idea of a diary on Marijuana addiction mentioned in the first story intriguing and set the right tone for this book.

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces