Book Review: Dark Faith: Invocations, by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, ed.
Title: Dark Faith: Invocations
Publisher: Apex Publications
Length: 292 pages
Not all of us are religious, but we’ve all got faith in something. Whether it be a god, another person, our own selves, or just faith in the knowledge that in the end, things will be alright, faith is what keeps us going when we have nothing else left. In this collection of twenty-six stories edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, authors such as Jay Lake, Lavie Tidhar, Jennifer Pelland, and Mike Resnick walk us through the highs and lows of the human experience with tales of the successes and failures of our myriad faiths.
Maurice Broaddus is the author of the fiction series The Knights of Breton Court, the novel Orgy of Souls, and numerous pieces of short fiction.
Jerry Gordon has also published a number of short fiction works, and his book Breaking the World will be available from Apex Publications this year. Together, Broaddus and Gordon also edited the first Dark Faith anthology, also published by Apex.
In ‘Subletting God’s Head,’ author Tom Piccirilli graces readers with the story of Eddie, a young man who is, for $2600 a month, subletting “a three-bedroom walk-up on the top floor of God’s head, sandwiched between two five-story brownstones on West Sixty-eighth.” Fast-moving and easy-reading, ‘Subletting God’s Head‘ is an entertaining story. Piccirilli‘s writing is strong, whimsical but firm, flippant but serious, and absolutely blasphemous in its down-to-bare-tacks approach to bringing out the humor in what is a very serious situation to many. “[Eddie] doesn’t blame Adam and Eve for fucking up,” we’re told. “They were just doing the human thing. It was all God’s fault anyway. You let two child-like beings loose in the world and then tell them, Okay, you can touch anything BUT NOT THIS GIANT TREE RIGHT HERE IN THE VERY CENTER OF THE GARDEN. You can eat anything EXCEPT FOR THIS BIG TASTY DELICIOUS YUMMY REFRESHING RED APPLE, DON’T IT LOOK GOOD.”
Much of Piccirilli‘s irreverence is shocking in its audacity, but I suspect this is to get readers to examine their own thoughts and motivations, how they think of and treat other people. Above all, readers will find a perfect description of mankind’s struggle to live in the shadow of a religion which many believe is often inhospitable to human nature. We find other comforts. We enjoy the little things in life as their own rewards. We love. We find our place and live our lives, and if the Big Man we’re renting space from doesn’t like it, our choices are 1) live with that, or 2) spend our lives living for someone else, regardless of our own ideas, loves, wishes, comforts … our own selves.
Jay Lake gives us an inside view of life with cancer in ‘The Cancer Catechism.’ I told myself I couldn’t focus on this story in this review, because it struck a very personal chord. Cancer took one of the most important people in my life away from me less than a year and a half ago. Now that it’s review time, though, I can’t bring myself to overlook it, so you’ll just have to bear with me being unprofessional for just a moment.
Jay Lake has been fighting cancer since 2008. It started in his colon and has since metastasized to his lungs and liver, despite multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy. In ‘The Cancer Catechism,’ Lake is therefore able to deliver to us a terribly moving story from a very personal viewpoint. With writing that is always clear and to the point, Lake describes what it’s like to live with cancer, why he fights, and what gets him through. I don’t think it would be possible for me to ever thank him enough for detailing this view, and letting me see the other side of the struggle someone I loved so deeply went through. In my thirty-seven years, I think this is the very first horror story to ever make me cry. Repeatedly. And if you intend to argue that nonfiction about cancer isn’t really Horror, please don’t. I have seen the Devil. His name is Cancer, and it is horrifying.
Back to being professional …
Multiple stories in Dark Faith: Invocations teach us that sometimes, faith isn’t religious, it’s just what gets you from day to day, such as in Lavie Tidhar‘s ‘Robotnik.’ Other stories, such as Elizabeth Twist‘s ‘Kill the Buddha,’ show us that sometimes, the faith we want isn’t necessarily the faith we have, and when we see others who do have the faith we want, we do our best to destroy it, to smooth over our own insecurities.
All in all, Dark Faith: Invocations is a fantastically written, well-edited anthology. The stories range so broadly across the spectrum of human faith that just about anyone should be able to find some they identify with. Each and every story triggers deep, introspective thought and encourages the reader to examine their own beliefs and the ways they move through the world. I would highly recommend this one to any mature reader who enjoys haunting, beautiful, and sometimes downright silly stories. But I warn you: it will make you take a good look at yourself, the life you lead, and the life you want to lead. If this isn’t something you’re prepared to do, well … then this book is even more for you.