(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Other was the first of several novels by Thomas Tryon involving mysterious circumstances and events. This first work came as a surprise to readers who knew Tryon as a film actor whose most memorable part was the title role in The Cardinal (1963). His decision to drop one career for another proved to be a wise one, for in the genres he chose, mystery and fantasy, he became remarkably proficient. He wrote several novels that drew on traditions of the mystical, the supernatural, or the magical. Three of his works were adapted into motion pictures.

The Other plays on the classic motif of the good twin and the evil twin, and Tryon’s unique twist makes this novel remarkably entertaining. One of the twins is dead—a fact of which the reader is kept in ignorance for a major part of the narrative—and the other seems to have absorbed the personality of his brother, so it is often difficult to discern which of the two is responsible for the horrible actions that plague the Perry family. The story Tryon tells is absorbing, and his use of the tools of fiction shows a skill that is somewhat surprising in one turning late to a writing career. The prose style tends toward the lyrical, with evocative words and carefully chosen sense impressions creating the mood of suspense essential for such a narrative. The characters are well drawn to display the complex relationships among members of a family that has lived long in one locale. Tryon’s decision to frame the plot with an opening and closing chapter set thirty-five or so years after the major events was a wise one. The opening provides the reader with the haunting questions that add suspense and prompt further reading; the closing supplies the details necessary to clarify the events. The Other is, thanks to the narrative skill of its author, a classic among works employing the theme of the good twin versus the evil twin, a story as old as Cain and Abel.