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Dark Faith Paperback – Oct 28 2010
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It is dark, certainly. Dark Faith is not an easy read. It requires thought, processing and consideration. The stories do not preach, nor attempt to convert. Faith is examined from many angles and perceptions.
It is a star-studded table of contents. Co-edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, the authors include Tom Piccirilli, Catherynne Valente, Jay Lake, Wrath James Wright, Brian Keene and Linda Addison, to name just a few. With such a varied group of styles and a fairly tight subject, the possibility of staleness is a reasonable suspicion. However, there is not a sign of staleness in this book.
Instead, each author brings a unique voice and outlook to the book. A cohesive whole is formed, yet all the little parts are quite capable of being seen individually. It is not only Christian faith which is explored. The actions of faith are as varied as the believers.
The highlights were hard to pick out. However, a few of the darkest gems stuck with me well after reading.
Douglas Warrick's Gordon Drach and the Art of Zen has a slow, quiet intensity. The character had depth and history, telling a past story without wandering into info dump. And the portrayal of God was unique and memorable.
The first story, Ghosts of New York, tips the reader right off of the cliff. 9/11 and a ghost girl cursed to live the moment of her death over and over again. Eternal punishment for a necessary sin? While it is not a ground-breaking plot, author Jennifer Pelland handled it with a considerable amount of empathy and emotion.
The Choir, by Lucien Soulban is equal parts Llovecraftian horror, Nazi experimentation, and the awful prejudice and persecution suffered by men who dared to be 'perverts'. It is a sympathetic portrayal of men in the most desperate circumstances, and their determination to light a torch for others to follow.
There are a few stories in here that sometimes meander and lose focus here and there, but they are the minority.
At twenty-six stories and a handful of poems, stated by Apex to total over 130,000 words, Dark Faith is a hefty read. Its contents are equally hefty. Allow yourself a few days to read and process. It is worth the time, and many of the stories are well-crafted enough to not only stand up to multiple readings, but to reveal new things with each reading.
The crew at Apex can be proud of themselves with this one, and if its quality is any indication of the majority of Apex's anthologies, I will certainly have them front and center on my reading list from here on out.
That, right there, sums up the tone of Dark Faith, an anthology recently released by Apex. These are not stories to read before bed- they are insidious clusters of words that will keep you up all night.
The collection ranges from the dark and bitter to the wistful, but all the stories have one thing in common- they look at what makes us human and twist it into a flurry of weakness and strength, taking the human condition and churning out things that are so skewed, so painfully true, that it is impossible to look away.
There were some stories that were hard to read, topic matter-wise, in that hard to look in the mirror sort of way, but like with a particularly vicious traffic accident the reader is captured by a morbid sort of fascination that keeps the pages turning. It helps that each story is a gem of word smithing. There are some seriously talented writers in this anthology, and that in itself makes it worth the buy.
It is also one of the more unique anthologies I have hit in awhile. There is definitely a common theme, and in the first few stories seems a bit too pervasive to make anything stand out individually, but as you keep reading, you see that one basic theme mature and mutate off into directions I would never have expected.
It is definitely for those readers who are friendly towards the horror genre, but it was definitely enjoyable for a shameless scifi/fantasy addict such as myself. I have a deep love for the twisted and for stories that have the power to make me wince. That shows such skill on the part of the author, and this anthology definitely abounds with such talent.
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.
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.
Apex's "Dark Faith" probes this human phenomenon and all its implications, both light and dark. Some stories approach faith from religious standpoints, others from myth and folklore, while others simply deal with "believing in something". Editors Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon have assembled a comprehensive collection, but the most impressive works are:
"Ghosts of New York", by Jennifer Pelland, a haunting story which suggests that remembering our deceased loved ones traps them in Hell; "He Who Would Not Bow", by Wrath White James, which focuses on a terrifying truth that most believers dismiss: if God exists and is merciful to His followers, by His own rules...He must punish and destroy His enemies; "Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch's Damnation", another skillfully crafted tale by the ever-impressive Douglas F. Warrick, about a man's road to enlightenment through Hell, and the possibility that "God" NEEDS us to believe in Him; "Go and Tell it on the Mountain", by Kyle S. Johnston, a darkly-humorous tale validating the existence of God, Jesus...and the futility of an imperfect race like ours EVER joining them in eternity.
"You Dream", by Ekaterina Sedia, a tale about how memory twists and allows us to forget things that have hurt us; "Mother Urban's Book of Dayes", by Jay Lake, where a boy dabbles in elemental powers far beyond his ken; "A Loss for Words", a tale warning against abusing one's "muse", because what the muse gives...she can always take away; "The Choir", by Lucian Soulban, a wonderfully Lovecraftian tale about World War II soldiers persecuted for their lifestyle, consigned to the dank hold of a cargo ship with something that slithers in the dark; and "Days of Flaming Motorcycles", by Catherynne M. Valente, a different kind of zombie story about a young woman who retains her faith in humanity, even as it crumbles around her.
The finest tales of this collection are "Paint Box, Puzzle Box" by D. T. Friedman and "For My Next Trick I'll Need A Volunteer", by Gary A. Braunbeck. The former makes a wonderful connection between Art and Faith, that the Creator is an Artist, and that each work creates and opens doors to innumerable worlds and realities; the later takes place in Braunbeck's Cedar Hill mythos, where the ever enigmatic Reverend takes a heavy-hearted Bill Emerson on a reality bending journey to restore his sagging faith.
Faith. Light and dark. Terrible beauty and mind-shattering horror. It's all here, in what's sure to be one of the year's best anthologies.