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Dark Faith Paperback – May 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Although the horror genre naturally lends itself to up close and personal examination of good and very nasty evil, little writing in that genre is faith inflected. This anthology addresses that gap. "Faith" is used loosely and expansively in this collection of short tales that offers something for lots of different tastes-slasher, fairy tale, end times, ghost story-as well as religion. "Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch's Damnation," by Douglas F. Warrick, is a meditation on enlightenment as cagey as any Zen master's teaching. "Different from Other Nights" by Eliyanna Kaiser offers a knife twist on the Passover celebration. Although the anthology is uneven, as collections often can be, the very best, like Gary A. Braunbeck's "For My Next Trick I'll Need a Volunteer," resonate in the mind long afterward, with no guts or gore. And while Cathrynne M. Valente's "The Days of Flaming Motorcycles" is a wicked clever zombie tale set in Augusta, Maine, readers may wonder where zombie Jesus is when we need him.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
What questions would you ask Jesus if he returned on the eve of an apocalypse and granted every surviving human a personal audience? If a Zen Buddhist were consigned to Hell, would he suffer the torments of the damned or remain blissfully serene? These are some of the questions explored in this distinctive collection focusing on philosophical conundrums presented by religious faith. Thirty-one tales and poems from some of the horror genre’s most talented writers cover quite a spectrum of inquiry. Jennifer Pelland’s “Ghosts of New York” finds the World Trade Center jumpers on 9/11 endlessly reliving their terrifying plummets to earth. An autistic girl who becomes miraculously lucid in Chesya Burke’s “The Unremembered” spurns the priest who mistakes her miracle for a Christian one. A saintly boy found murdered in Ekatarina Sedia’s “You Dream” haunts a woman’s nightmares. While the overall quality is mixed, and the selections lean heavily on shock value rather than subtlety, there are enough provocative scenarios here to provide hours of faith-challenging entertainment. --Carl Hays
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The first story in the collection, GHOSTS OF NEW YORK, is one of the strongest. This short pays tribute to September 11th--one of the most tasteful tributes I've read in awhile. The main character literally relives the day again and again, which mirrors our own reality in reference to this tragedy.
THE MAD EYES OF THE HERON KING is another great read. Leonard loves to watch the herons out on the lake. Through his watching, he encounters and succumbs to a very twisted redemption.
There are humorous tales as well. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN finds the faithful lining up to meet Jesus . . . a very modern (possibly lapsed) Jesus.
DIFFERENT FROM OTHER NIGHTS is especially dark.
I could go on . . .
In short, Dark Faith is well worth the price of admission. As with any anthology of this size, some stories are better than others. There were a few (very few) stories that didn't quite match the theme. Having said all that, this book (if you divide it up over a month) will give you thirty different takes on faith. Whether a poem or a story, this book leaves the reader with plenty to think about.
Dark Faith amasses thirty-one authors with short stories, and a couple poems, that all deal in one way or another with faith. From that one starting point, each author goes off on their own path, each story following its own north star, as it were. Now, I'm still a guy who doesn't shine towards poetry, so my focus was on the fiction.
Two short stories immediately jumped out at the beginning of the anthology with disparate tones, but equally rending effect. Jennifer Pelland's "Ghosts of New York" is a sad portrait of a woman's afterlife in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. As I recall, Jennifer was a bit hesitant about how this story would be received by readers, given its setting, but I thought it was tragic feat of beauty. Then, there was Brian Keene's "I Sing a New Psalm," with a hard-bitten tone that practically jumps off the page and dares you to hit back.
From there, the anthology carries on with stories like Ekaterin Sedia's "You Dream", a story I liked despite its use of second-person POV which I rarely enjoy; Catherynne M. Valente's "Days of Flaming Motorcycles", which was already a favorite of mine after reading it online in a couple other venues; plus Tom Piccirilli's "Scrawl" and an increasingly creepy stroll through fetishism and self-loathing.
The book is just about the furthest thing you can get from a religious screed designed to convert or dissuade people from God. If you're thinking that, you can knock it off. This anthology is a bit like a confessional, but more like a open-ended prayer uttered to no one god in particular. Whatever ear the song falls on, it is hopefully a friendly one. For an atheist like me, it was kind of nice to see horror and faith meet with a more sophisticated approach than evil priests and generic zealotry posited as villains. What villains there are in this book are ourselves, more or less. Our frailties. And no matter which god you believe in, Westboro Baptists not withstanding, you ought to see that the book may be dark, but it does shed some light on the idea of faith.
With thirty-one stories and poems packed into one book, you are bound to not like all of them, but--by gawd--you should like most of 'em.
There's a Dark Faith 2 in the works, and I think it's set for release sometime in the latter half of 2012, so you can bet that I'll be keeping my eye out for that one when the time comes. I may not be a good little Christian soldier, but I am a satisfied customer.
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.
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.
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.
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).
This review can be found (with a few additional words and links) here: https://uncertaintales.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/book-review-dark-faith-anthology-edited-by-maurice-broaddus-jerry-gordon/
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