The strange and wonderful stories that make up Sachdeva’s debut begin on this side of reality and slip to the other—often so gracefully, and with such a precise rendering of the fantastical, that we become inadvertent believers ... The brilliance of these stories—beyond the cool, precise artistry of their prose—is their embrace of both the known and the unknown, in a combination that feels truly original.
The nine stories in Anjali Sachdeva’s debut collection All the Names They Used for God aren’t your typical narratives. Each one provides a haiku-esque glimpse into the infinite mind of an individual while revealing how the seeming trivialities of life can reverberate with meaning ... Her literary world is magnetic. The author has created perfect, complete micro-universes that lure the reader in to the dark depths of literature like siren song. And yet All the Names They Used for God shines in a way that leads characters and readers alike back out of the caves and frozen waters and into the warm, mysterious light.
Ms. Sachdeva’s book, a debut, is notable for its exuberant variety ... There’s an element of whimsy to this assortment, and sometimes Ms. Sachdeva is content with an easy laugh ... The range of her gifts is best seen in the title story, about two young women who are forced to become child brides to Islamists but gradually turn the tables on their captors through the practice of mind control ... The story’s delicate sadness mingles beautifully with the boldness of its conception.
Sachdeva's stories almost seem to revel in their diversity; the book has surprises on virtually every page and touches on a host of philosophical and technological questions that feature both in the treatises Milton read (and wrote) and today's headlines. Science fiction has always been at its strongest when working exactly this kind of combination, and Sachdeva's first attempts at it are remarkable.
Overall, Sachdeva's openings are not always strong but almost all her endings artfully leave space for the reader's mind to linger, wonder, and imagine what might happen next. She's at her best when describing a protagonist's close encounters with the mystical and in near-otherworldly settings ... Still, those pivotal moments could have been richer, could have transported readers more intensely into those spaces/worlds if the language/sentences had been more enthralling, more spellbinding. It seems as if the writer restrained herself and, consequently, her characters. In fact, some of the stories are even reminiscent of Aimee Bender's and Kelly Link's excellent speculative works, but not entirely as captivating.
Sachdeva’s striking story collection, her first book, explores everyday conflicts in highly imaginative ways ... Though some of Sachdeva’s nine tales bend into the surreal, they never lose the pulse of the human spirit, creating a distinctive, thought-provoking work.
All the Names They Used for God, Anjali Sachdeva’s striking debut short-story collection, isn’t missing much except a default mode. The nine stories range from more or less realistic to ambiguously dreamlike, from visionary historical fiction to outright fantasy. Each story introduces a unique new world through which Ms. Sachdeva guides readers with a sure hand and imagination burning bright ... Whether it is realistic or speculative, Anjali Sachdeva’s work is like the best science fiction or fantasy, forcing readers to consider the world anew, even as it entertains deliciously.
So rich they read like dreams—or, more often, nightmares—the nine stories in Sachdeva’s otherworldly debut center upon the unforgiving forces that determine the shape of our lives, as glorious as they are brutal ... They are enormous stories, not in length but in ambition, each an entirely new, unsparing world. Beautiful, draining—and entirely unforgettable.
Equally at home in realistic and speculative plots, Sachdeva crafts precise character studies with minimal flourishes ... Throughout, characters face a perpetual constraint against full expression of their emotions. These inventive stories will challenge readers to rethink how people cope with thwarted hopes.