It's the kind of concept that would make a perfect Twilight Zone episode, or a great low-budget horror movie ... The drama necessary to carry such a claustrophobic scenario doesn't manifest. Part of the problem is that the characters always remain at a distance. We don't really get to know the people on display, except for the surgeon at the center of the tale ... The doctor has the seeds of an interesting story ... the other characters all seem rather lifeless — bad pun, I know — compared to him ... When you're setting up a play in a single room with only a few characters, you need to crank up the temperature with all of them, but the water never quite boils over during Night Theater, and the metaphysical questions it asks are not terribly interesting ... At his best, Paralkar also evokes a vivid sense of place, and his knowledge of medical procedures — he's a physician — also shows during the detailed surgical scenes. It's in those moments that Night Theater really blooms.
Each nameless character is drawn with psychological depth and layered motivations. Paralkar, a physician-scientist, melds medical realism and metaphysical debate, wry humor and somber observations to create a riveting and intriguing tale.
Each medical procedure is related in exacting detail, which adds authenticity to a surreal tale but also slows down the momentum of the narrative for all but the most dedicated fans of human anatomy and surgical technique ... Paralkar’s prose is beautiful, sometimes stunning. Though the logic of the story falters at times, as it must in a story of the supernatural, the doubts, yearnings, and simple humanity of the characters ring utterly true ... While vividly depicting human physiology in all its glistening, sinewy, gory glory, the physician writer allows the celestial mystery of the meaning of life to stand. There is no reassuring diagnosis of eternal redemption or prescription for salvation.
Within the text, surgery procedures are prominent with medical details. Saheb’s abrasive personality becomes more sympathetic as his backstory comes to light. The novel leaves important plot questions unanswered but ends on what the characters see as a hopeful note ... an imaginative novel that tackles questions about the purpose of life through characters who, when left to choose, find both pros and cons in the afterlife, too.
By not giving any of his characters any names—they are simply 'the surgeon,' 'the pharmacist,' 'the teacher,' 'the official'—Paralkar has attempted, perhaps, to make his archetypes seem more universal ... While Paralkar mostly succeeds with the above, where he falters a bit is in his rendering of the tense connections between the characters during these defining moments of their existence ... The novel ends with an inevitability and predictability, which is, given the way the story begins and progresses, as satisfying as it should be ... Paralkar's ending, then, is also pitch perfect.
... otherworldly ... [Paralkar's] prose is sharp and melodious, and within these enchanting passages is a haunting contemplation of life, death, the liminal space in between, and the dogged search for resurrection ... A beguiling and unforgettable fable.
Paralkar’s novel underscores the arbitrary nature of death, the fact that one can neither prepare for it nor, perhaps, cheat one’s way out of it. Metaphysical conversations contrast with the detailed descriptions of surgery on damaged bodies that no longer either bleed or feel pain. Grotesque, strange, and hopeful in turns, the novel will leave readers marveling at the mysteries of death—and the wonders of life.