Monday, August 23, 2010

Dark Faith

Dark Faith
Edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon

Apex Publications, 2010

This anthology has a very attractive title. What is a dark faith? Faith in the dark gods? Envious belief that you all will be good, but others will not? Insincere, opportunistic faith? Faith in something light, but from which you have nothing but trouble? After reading this book, I hoped to find out. But I failed.

The editors have tried, but their efforts have not been converted into qualitative result: almost the entire first half of the book is rather weak. Since the faith is still more about the soul than the body, then to write a good story, you need to describe soul experiences in not a trivial way. But most of the authors have a problem with that. Either way, the faith (usually in God) actually occurs in most stories, but it often comes down to a confrontation of good people and bad God. God is unfair, they say, and need to punish him. These antitheist motifs fill this book.
Vulnerabilities of many stories in that they are insipid: the people in them do nothing except suffer, up in the clouds, suffering after the loss of a loved one - and that's it. The story begins with the abstract suffering and, passing a short way into a few pages, ends with exactly the same spot where it had begun.

Unable to build a plot outline in a small room, the narrator could compensate this lack by stylistic maneuvers, but they do not succeed in that either. (This refers, again, to the first half of the anthology to a greater extent.)
However, closer to the middle of the anthology situation is corrected. The story of Kyle S. Johnston «Go and Tell it on the Mountain» is not just a damn funny story (in it Jesus jokes as a boozer at the bar) about the second coming, but a sad story in the first place not even about people but rather about God, about that the life is not easier for him than for all of us here on Earth. This is one of the most powerful stories in the collection, it is also written much more interesting than stylistically faded stories of many other authors of «Dark Faith». Nick Mamatas in a very bright and generous in the details «The Last Words of Dutch Schultz Jesus Christ» shows that God is something abstract, non-transferable, and therefore the faith in God is abstract, each sees in it something that can - and wants to - see. Half of the story describes a situation with mainly students, who watched The God Film (this is not a film about God, not a film with the participation of God, not even a movie directed by God), the second one is the actual movie itself.
«You Dream» by Ekaterina Sedia is a melancholic story about return to Russia, about how those you have lost will haunt you forever. Sedia has its effect by lyricism and native landscapes. A boy Danny Knifepoint Wielder in the story by Jay Lake «Mother Urban` s Book of Dayes» can cause rain, sees spirits, changes the future. Not too original, the story nevertheless looks advantageous compared to its neighbors on the anthology: Lake created a convincing character that already has over twenty, but with thoughts and behavior of a teen. Parable about the Artist and Death in the anthology is introduced by D. T. Friedman. In «Paint Box, Puzzle Box» the author raises yet another interpretation of the dark faith: faith in the immortality. The word "dark" here is really to the point: Artist could not escape Death, but he still left a loophole. Catherynne Valente in her zombie story «Days of Flaming Motorcycles» turned the topic of faith in the unique perspective of a relationship of not between a man and God, but through the human and zombie. Does zombie have a soul? - asks the author. The same question is asked by the protagonist of the story suspecting that her father zombie still has a soul.

The final part of the anthology, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired. All for the same reasons: not well-narrated stories.
It is worth noting that in the anthology there are 4 more stories, which have nothing in common with the theme of the collection, but the stories themselves are strong. These are «The Mad Eyes of the Heron King» by Richard Dansky, «Scrawl» by Tom Piccirilli, «Ring Road» by Mary Robinette Kowal, and especially «A Loss For Words» by John Hay. Kowal is able to create a memorable image, Pitccirilli has excellent sense of humor (the hero of his story is a writer of erotic fiction, the story itself is very funny), Dansky is not so elegant stylistically as Pitccirilli, but knows how to tell a story. John Hay wrote the original story about how a woman's body is -literally - a source of inspiration for a writer man.

Not a bad anthology with a dozen prominent stories, which, however, does not quite fit its name. Just «faith» would be enough.

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