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on November 24, 2010
I was concerned about coming to this collection of biblical retellings as a secular reader, knowing too little, but I found quickly that knowing the original tales in their various versions isn't a prerequisite for enjoying this collection. From start to finish, the stories in She Nailed a Stake Through His Head (Dybbuk Press) are well-crafted, beautifully written, and freshly conceived, tearing into the sanitized versions of these biblical tales to get to some disturbing hidden horrors, and definitely stirring up new considerations for stories that have lasted hundreds of years.

"Whither Thou Goest," by Gerri Leen, begins with a confident narrator telling a history that wants vengeance: Lot's daughters, the narrator says, "learned to turn the words of servitude into words of angry potency after their father raped them." But power and vengeance works on itself, and what we steal might also be stolen from us. This story is haunting and resonates with the feel of legends and what's hidden beneath old tales.

Daniel Kaysen's "Babylon's Burning" shifts us to modern times at a flashy corporate party, that shifts from a casual lack of ethics to talk of losing the human soul. The tale twists and turns so that the reader never stops trying to guess the protagonist's fate, feeling more and more horror at what this company--that worships gold and silver and "the shock and awe of Iran"--will ask a person to do.

The third tale, "As If Favorites of Their God" by Christi King, is told in multiple voices, each as compelling as the next, as King Saul visits a witch to speak to the Prophet Samuel. As the story unfolds and the visions begin, the two find unexpectedly their fates intertwined. The language is remarkable, with striking images that keep the reader moving with the story.

Catherynne Valente's tale, "Psalm of the Second Body," insists on the reader's attention from the first line: "I am the first story ever told; the story of the harlot." Angrily the narrator relates that she is the story scratched from the stone to make room for Gilgamesh. Startling, fresh images leave the reader living the narrator's life and essence, and beautiful poetic repetitions hark back to the oral storytelling tradition, as we see the mother of creation relating what was lost.

"Judgment at Naioth," by Elissa Malcohn, begins with the image of a road that might have once been a river, evoking a sense of history and continuum immediately, but we're then thrown into this modern, industrial world as a leather-clad girl dismounts her motorcycle to enter "the navel of Yahweh," a seedy warehouse-turned-nightclub. Once in the club she meets with the "sallow-faced" Solomon, and we learn of the girl's rape, a prophesy for revenge, and talk of opening the slit between worlds. Strange and fascinating, the story blends the old and the new so well that I believe the old might have found that "slit" into the new.

Romie Stott's "Judith and Holfernes" is a short short tale of beheading as a "full-time job," revealing with almost humorous (though too gruesome to make me laugh) vividness all the positions in which a beheading can be accomplished as well as the care that should be taken in knowing which way the blood will flow. The tale is quick and rolls like the heads.

To see God in someone's eyes seems like a wonderful thing, but for the protagonist in Lyda Morehouse's "Jawbone of an Ass," the God in her husband's eyes hates her. What at first seems to be a tale of marital abuse shifts quickly as the narrator announces that she needs an answer to her husband's "riddle," and we find ourselves in an embattled Ireland facing a vengeful God.

"Swallowed!" by Stephen M. Wilson, opens in a surreal place, where the narrator first sees the whale, a "grotesque malignancy of fantastic nightmare." This nightmare vision spreads as he wanders the city, and death, it seems, is no relief. In death-like dreams we see the narrator's past, his shocking relationship with his mother and the horrifying relationship with his "in utero" brother. The story is charged with strong, disturbing images, evoking a hellish world of mutilation, told in an efficient and intriguing backward structure.

The final story, D.K. Thompson's "Last Respects," begins with a twist from the start, as we see a vampire sharpening his dentures and a vampire family frying up dinner. This oddly domestic tale is told in a fluid, easy manner, fitting naturally with the family problems and nostalgia, though all the while, we're traipsing along a cliff edge knowing what's to come is going to be gruesome.

I came to the collection with fairly meager knowledge of the original stories, but each piece is strong both in story and in style, leaving me wanting to delve deeper into the original biblical tales, to then come back and draw the parallels and expand my understanding. It's not necessary for enjoyment, but the stimulant to want to learn more, rather than toss the finished book aside, is welcome.
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on September 22, 2010
This collection of horror stories based on stories found in the Bible is as entertaining as it sounds. You don't need to know the stories on which they are based to enjoy these tales, but if you're someone like me who has read the Bible cover-to-cover it's even more fun to look at the original stories and in most cases see just how few modifications were required to make them fit soundly into the horror genre.

It begins with the story of Ruth told from the point of view of a vengeful demon and ends with a Jesus-as-vampire tale, an idea that I honestly thought had been completely done to death (so to speak) until I encountered the author's fresh and original take on it. In between you will find Daniel cast as a prophet for a modern multinational corporation, a retelling of the story of Jonah inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and much more.

All in all, this is a great anthology for those interested in the esoteric and horror fans alike.
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on February 10, 2013
As someone who reads the Bible first and foremost as a nuanced, often intensely bleak document of human growth, struggle, desire, and suffering, and who also enjoy his stories with a nice helping of the red stuff, I found this collection of short stories to hit the spot between genre and interpretation. The opening tale "Whither Thou Goest", by Gerri Leen, tells the story of Ruth and Naomi, by way of Stoker, and starts us off in the oddly familiar but newly disorienting cast the book takes with some of our most beloved biblical figures. My personal favorite was "Babylon's Burning", a postmodern riff on the Writing On The Wall, complete with sex, blood, and corporate malfeasance. It exemplifies what is so unique and interesting about this collection, the warped and new perspectives on these old stories, and does so in a well written, crackling style. This is well worth a purchase, for a quiet cold night.
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on October 9, 2010
The Bible isn't a G-rated affair. "She Nailed a Stake Through His Head" is a collection of stories inspired by the more debauch stories within the Bible, the stories of the things that incur God's wrath. The raving of questionable people of the cloth, violence of the spurned, the dark arts, and more, Tim Lieder brings readers stories with a dark tint on the Holy book, making for an intriguing read. "She Nailed a Stake Through His Head" is a choice pick for any unique fiction collection.
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on December 31, 2010
I read the collection (Kindle version) over the course of an afternoon. The stories are engaging and left me feeling satisfied. I consider myself Christian, and had a good mental reference for the stories, but one is not required. A quick search on Wikipedia, etc. would provide any necessary information.

The only reason I did not give the collection five stars is for my disappointment while reading "Swallowed!", the story of Jonah. It is touted as "Lovecraft-ian", but is far from it. The Lovecraft connection is one of the many reasons I bought the collection, but I found the story almost unreadable as a person who has recently read Lovecraft's entire bibliography. Aside from the Cthulu monster and other Mythos references in the story, it does not have the essence of Lovecraft. The author weaves some of Lovecraft's antiquarian (a Lovecraft word) vocabulary into the story, but it doesn't work with the author's own voice. The vocabulary seems like an afterthought. That the story is centered on interaction between the main character and the creatures is reminiscent of August Derleth and other Mythos writers rather than Lovecraft himself. Lovecraft considered the creatures a device rather than a strong element. The most obvious divergence from Lovecraft's formula is explicit sexual details. The (few) women who appeared in Lovecraft's stories were often "seen and not heard", and sexual encounters were never explicit, if mentioned at all.

I like the idea of a Cthulu Mythos/biblical crossover, but this one was not up to snuff, at least not to be considered "Lovecraft-ian."
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on September 6, 2012
I had high hopes for at least an entertaining read, but certainly expected no literary magic. I found neither. Every story, excepting one, read more like Middle-School "Creative Writing" exercises. They were nonsensical babble that were rambling, nearly impossible to follow, and apparently none of the "authors" understand a story includes AN ENDING. These read more like a beginning, body, and "my hand is cramping from holding this dull crayon this long so I'll just stop now." To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Certainly no terror here. Definitely no entertainment either. Don't look for the Title Story, it isn't in there. Don't waste your money on this dribble.
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on April 26, 2015
Good idea poor execution.
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on February 25, 2012
For all you Atheists who consider the Bible dull, you probably haven't read enough of the Old Testament. Come on over and get a taste of what the Jews and Christians, and even the Muslims, have known for so long: a wrathful God is if nothing else, good reading. Now before you get carried away and start arguing that a world with so much death and destruction could not be the creation of a Godhead, get a taste of these stories and you'll know why the chosen people don't have a problem with this concept at all. Good stuff now, and back then. All guaranteed 100% true.
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