Book Review: Dark Faith (Anthology) edited by Maurice Broaddus & Jerry Gordon

The first thing you notice when about Jesus Christ when you meet him is how He smells. He smells of piss dried on the crotch of a pair of underwear. Stale cigarette smoke. It’s not the fact that He looks nothing like you’d imagine. No flowing white robes, no halo, no doe eyes. Jesus is a beat up sack of a man who looks like He hasn’t seen a fortuitous year since His resurrection. It isn’t the tanned hide He calls his face; it isn’t the dirt that covers it. It’s the smell.

Go and Tell It on the Mountain – Kyle S Johnson

I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review under the Apex Publishing ‘Minion Review Program’.

Great anthology with some excellent tales playing with (and challenging) some of the negative elements of faith, religion, and the afterlife. Some straight up horror stories, some broader fantasy/urban-fantasy, but all are strong and enjoyable. The ‘Dark’ element was consistent throughout, but I did get the feeling a few of the later ones were a little thin on the ‘Faith’ theme.

Liked it, recommended.

Dark Faith: 4 out of 5 Stars

I pretty much signed up for the Apex Minion Review program to read this book. I’d seen it on the Apex Publishing Website and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to pick it up. I’m a fan of the horror genre generally, and whilst I’m an atheist*, I am fascinated with the spectrum of religiosity; stories, beliefs, all things theistic. I particularly love reading things that challenge or warp the orthodoxy – something to makes us look at an old idea in a new light**. A new approach will always win me over. Happily, this collection of tales didn’t disappoint.

Overall I felt this was a really well put together anthology, in a way that is more than just the quality of the stories. I got a sense of respect for the topic from this book,  there was an ‘even-handedness’ that meant I didn’t feel religion as a concept was being attacked (a danger for such a collection). But equally importantly, it also didn’t take an easy route of avoiding any real life religions. Aspects of faith are examined honestly, sometimes brutally, through the fiction included here, in a way that is not flippant nor dismissive.

Thematically it encompasses a broad range within the ‘Faith’ umbrella. These stories cover a disappointing meeting with Jesus after rapture, detail a number of types of horrifying afterlives, show us exactly what it would be like to live directly under the oppressive and brutally omniscient presence of an unforgiving god on Earth, and so on. Multiple religions are referenced, both real and imaginary, and there is enough variety to ensure that most readers should be satisfied.

Hits

All of the stories are great, but some really stuck in my mind***.

Right from the beginning, it kicks off with a great ghost story by Jennifer Pelland “Ghosts of New York” dealing with the tormented spirits of those who died in the Twin Towers on 9/11.  We then shift to “I Sing a New Psalm” by Brian Keene, where a man asks the question of how god can give love only to take it away, and he decides on terrible and violent answer.

Moving on to we hit another great story by Richard Dansky in “The Mad Eyes of the Heron King”; a weird tale of a sad little man who finds something worth worshiping in a proud, talking, Heron. “A Loss For Words” by J.C. Hay was a captivating if grim alternative look at Calliope the Greek Muse in a modern (and commercial) setting.

Misses

In my view, none of the stories could strictly be classified as ‘misses’; by this I mean that they were all strong and entertaining. However, as I said at the start, some of these stories seem to be a little outside the concept of faith or belief, which does work against an otherwise deeply thematic anthology like this. “Scrawl” by Tom Picirilli was a solid piece of dark (S&M erotic) storytelling but I couldn’t connect it with religion or spirituality in any real sense. “Sandboys” by Richard Wright was an excellent tale (and as a father I both loved it whilst it still hit me where it hurts) but faith?…I felt the connection was tenuous at best (or I missed it anyway).

There were also some short poems scattered about in between the stories. These were fine, but ultimately didn’t make much of an impression on me (probably because I’m a bit poetically ignorant).

Summary

I read an article on Sojourners which had a interesting few lines about finding the divine in fiction and science fiction:

The Bible itself is a collection of stories told by various people of different perspectives and personalities, across dramatically different times. When we read these stories, we start to pick up the through-lines of who God might be, and how humanity comes to terms with that. In belief, as in life, we are moved by the stories others tell. And those stories can help us to see the divine in some pretty unexpected places. – See more at: https://sojo.net/articles/keeping-force/how-sci-fi-and-fantasy-help-us-understand-divine#sthash.DUWJiTxn.dpuf

Perhaps picking up this anthology might give you a glimpse of the divine…assuming you are brave enough to keep your eyes open.

Dark Faith is an enjoyable collection of stories that will please anyone looking to peek into some of the nastier imagined corners of religious belief.


 

Thanks for reading this review, and if you do check out this book I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

Cheers

KT

 

*I don’t believe in a God, but try to avoid ‘Dawkins-syndrome’ (i.e. I try to not be an arsehole about it).
**I tried this myself very early on in a 100 word story ‘Always Slaves’. Whether I managed it or not...?
***I should say that I had read two of these stories before (in the anthology 'Years Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2011' which was also excellent):)
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