DARK FAITH edited by Maurice Broaddus & Jerry Gordon (2010 Apex Publications / 375 pp. / tp)
These 31 all-new stories and poems explore not just religious, but several kinds of faith from many different angles.
After Linda D. Addison's opening psuedo-Genesis poem, Jennifer Pelland's 'Ghosts of New York' gets things off to an intense start; this one tells the tale of a woman who continually finds herself jumping from a skyscraper, soon to learn she's among those who were killed on 9/11.
Brian Keene's 'I Sing A New Psalm' is like a religious version of Steve Gerlach's novel RAGE (with an ending that's equally as depressing; while not my cup of tea it does make a strong point); Wrath James White's judgment day story, 'He Who Would Not Bow,' deals with a group of people who learn they might be able to kill God who is now here on earth; the ending took me by surprise. In 'Zen and the Art of Dratch's Damnation,' Douglas F. Warwick takes a disturbing look at one man's suffering in the afterlife (along with the sarcastic beings who taunt him).
I always thought most pictures of Jesus made him look like a California Surfer Dude. Kyle S. Johnson pictures him that way in his apocalyptic 'Go and Tell it on the Mountain,' where--to the surprise of a man who lived a good life but didn't follow any religion--Christ appears as a bored, cigarette-smoking, disobedient man who has returned to tell some people the truth (that there's nothing after this world) and various lies (He takes pleasure in telling former religious people all kinds of weird theories). Eliyanna Kaiser brings the goods with 'Different From Other Nights,' where a young Jewish girl takes her seder and passover a bit more literally than her rabbi. Another short & (un)sweet poem by Rain Graves doubles as an intro of sorts to Nick Mamatas' dazzling 'The Last Words of Dutch Schultz Jesus Christ,' which explores the effects of an obscure movie known as The God Film.
In the bizarre 'To the Jerusalem Crater' by Lavie Tidhar, a young boy goes on a journey of spiritual awakening, while Matt Cardin's 'Chimeras & Grotesqueries' deals with someone who becomes a bit too influenced by their favorite author. Ekaterina Sedia's 'You Dream' is a gloomy (and absorbing) faith-hunt set in Moscow while Jay Lake's 'Mother Urban's Booke of Days' gives a young man the ability to control his surroundings.
'The Mad Eyes of the Heron King' is one of the creepier entries here as Richard Dansky delivers a morbid tale of judgment. D.T. Friedman's entertaining 'Paint Box, Puzzle Box' features an artist who manages to escape death through the worlds he creates in his paintings, while J.C. Hays' 'A Loss for Words' looks at an author who pays a prostitute by writing original stories on her flesh (and, yes, this one goes deep); in another author-themed story, the always-reliable Tom Piccirilli strikes with 'Scrawl,' about a nerdy-looking erotica writer who finds inspiration with a mistress during a convention.
Kelli Dunlap's 'Good Enough' is a May/Pieces-ish serial killer/suicide yarn that more than lives up to its title, while Geoffrey Girard's 'First Communion' (another one dealing with suicide) takes a dark look at missed love. In 'The God of Last Moments,' Alethea Kontis explores an icon and a (literal) inner demon, then Mary Robinette Kowal's Norse God fable 'Ring Road' will surely leave you heart-broken.
Chesya Burke's impressive 'The Unremembered' is a richly-symbolic take on miracles, culture, and the importance of oral tradition, then SS-bred slug creatures mix with an acceptance-based theme in Lucien Soulban's 'The Choir.'
What would any modern horror anthology be without a zombie story? Thankfully, 'The Days of Flaming Motorcycles' by Catherynne M. Valente is a fresh, funny, and creepy take on them. Lucy A. Snyder's 'Miz Ruthie Pays Her Respects' will surely knock some readers for a loop, while Kurt Dinan's 'Paranoia" turned out to be my favorite poem of the lot.
'Hush' by Kelly Barnhill manages to sneak in a fine haunted house story while Richard Wright's 'Sandboys' explores the faith of a father who truly believes he'll again see the son who was taken from him again.
Gary A. Braunbeck provides the end piece with another Cedar Hill story titled 'For My Next Trick I'll Need a Volunteer.' This study on good and evil features Detective Bill Emerson contemplating a violent child abuse case, being taken on a surreal journey by The Reverend. With Gary's trademark roller-coaster-ride of emotions and ideas on display, those eagerly awaiting his next Cedar Hill novel will find this to be quite the fix.
At times surprising, scary, humorous and almost always thought provoking, DARK FAITH is a must read for fans of religious horror and those seeking some chills of a deeper nature.