The Other Side of Never, edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane, is a collection of spec-fic tales with contributions from a variety of sci-fi, horror and fantasy writers. In this particular anthology, each story is inspired by J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan tales, whilst focusing on different characters and putting new spins on the themes and motifs of the originals.
In “Manic Pixie Girl”, A.C. Wise gives us a Tinkerbell struggling with a version of drug addiction, leaving a trail of destruction behind her and trying to find a way to move forward and grow up. In “The Reeds Remember”, Juliet Marillier returns us to Classical mythology and the original god Pan. There we learn of his destructive, childish ways and those who must heal from the trauma of his recklessness. And in Robert Shearman’s “Fear of the Pan-Child”, a man remembers a fear held for a character from Neverland (the name is literally redacted on the pages), only to have his son be cast as that character in a school play.
Although this collection is described in the tagline as ‘Dark tales from the world of Peter & Wendy’, many of the stories’ darker elements come in the form of surprising violence, gross moments, and other psychologically-heavy themes. However, they are mostly balanced out by other, more nuanced iterations. But, still, it is an uneven collection, and one that was difficult to continue with at times.
This anthology is not for the overly nostalgic – those readers who love J.M. Barrie’s tales of Neverland may find themselves upset at some of the ways these writers have reinterpreted their elements. But, for lovers of short dark fantasy, and of looking at well-known stories from new angles, this collection contains enough well-written interpretations to make it worthwhile.