Subletting God’s Head by Tom Piccirilli is the first short story in Apex Publication’s anthology, Dark Faith: Invocations and if this fantastic short is a prime example of what to expect for the rest of the anthology, I’m in for one wild ride. I’m reviewing each short story as I come across each one. I truly loved this short from start to finish. It was brilliantly thought out and humorous. The way Tom Piccirilli has Eddie go about his everyday life so nonchalantly is comical when his life is anything by normal. Asking God for a dog and being gifted with a pug named Habakkuk, then changing the dog’s name to Cletus and angering God. I can’t believe this short is only eleven pages. 6 out of 5 stars for Subletting God’s head; it goes far above and beyond expectations.
The Cancer Catechism by Jay Lake is a cold, vicious, and morbidly on point tale of despair and then the eventual resignation to one’s fate through “The Cancer Catechism”. I’ve only known a few people with cancer and I’m very thankful of that and the fact that the majority of my family has been unscathed by its poisonous touch. The insight that this short possesses leads me to believe that Jay Lake has had cancer previously or someone extremely close to him has. 4 out of 5 stars for The Cancer Catechism along with my sincerest wishes of hope for anyone afflicted with this illness. Death will eventually strike us all, but as Lake has shown us, cancer is certainly one dreadful way to the end I hope most won’t have to endure.
The Big Blue Peacock by Nick Mamatas. The Big Blue Peacock so far has been my least favorite by a large margin, especially when matched up against the first two stories. I found little to relate to and while some of the story was engaging, I have little knowledge of Yezidi and the discovery of the sacrificial site and outcome was vague to me. 2 out of 5 stars.
Kill The Buddha by Elizabeth Twist. Gretchen hunts Buddhas, and her best advice is to kill them before they kill you. The evil Buddhas project calmness and tranquility; however, as soon as you drop your guard you are a goner. Interesting short story and reality twist, and the ending leaves you with your own puzzling interpretation of the short. 3 out of 5 stars.
Robotnik by Lavie Tidhar. Sometimes certain stories are hard to fit into short stories due to their scale and limitations. Robotnik is a prime example of this because of a main character that is riddled with back-story. Motl is a Robotnik, a former human soldier turned into a cyborg soldier creation. During the story Motl remembers some long forgotten war and in that war he remembers before he was a Robotnik. While this might sound a tad complicated Lavie Tadhar does a pretty nifty job of keeping it all in place and looping everything in tightly together at the end. I would be interested to know if there was ever more to this short piece or if Robotnik was just a crazy, short idea Tidhar came up with. 4 out of 5 stars and Robotnik has a lot potential for being more than just a short.
Prometheus Possessed by Matt Cardin. I needed to take a deep breath and remove myself from Prometheus Possessed before writing up this quick review. A colorful and orderly world exists on the surface but beneath it all lies the offices and cell chambers of the “Ministry of Psychic Sanitation”. This is where Brother Frank performs his work. He is one the most promising Curers to grace its halls in a long time. The chamber is where Brother Frank unleashes a “Full and Final Cure”. Prometheus Possessed is excellent and the way Matt Cardin starts from a point off in the distance at the beginning and flies us into the heart of the New Society and then pulls us back out at the conclusion is masterful. 5 out of 5 stars.
Night Train by Alma Alexander. Solid short and I really enjoyed the idea of the main character’s god consisting of all her hopes and dreams. Even though all of her aspirations had been washed out and her god was slowly fading, her progeny might come after her with the same hopes and dreams and succeed where she failed. 4 out of 5 stars.
The Sandfather by Richard Wright. Damn, I’ve read a few stories like this one and they get me everytime. 5 out of 5 stars and might be my new overall favorite. This is very similar to Wrath by Lee Mather in Fading Light the Anthology of the Monstrous and these hold a vise-grip on my quivering heart.
Sacrifice by Jennifer Pelland. You might need to roll some dice for this one and let it choose for you which path you are going to take, like all those gaming books. Sacrifice is another promising addition to the Dark Faith anthology. So far the core stories I’ve covered have been of an extremely high standard. This one is tough for me to rate. It’s written well but it didn’t knock me over. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Thou Art God by Tim Waggoner. Is everyone a small part of god just enjoying our own separate small slice of life and place in the universe, waiting to coalesce together as one? Or once you become that one combined flawless entity will you wish you had never discovered the truth now that there is only one, only you? Would you wish to forget everything and splinter out into an infinitesimal amount of life? 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Wishflowers by Tim Pratt. Wishflowers is somewhat of an interesting twist on the holy grail quest but with Wish Flowers instead of the cup of eternal life. 3 out of 5 stars.
Coin Drop by Richard Dansky. David might have found the key to keeping the universe going or maybe to destroy it and the answer lies within the new vending machine. 3.5 out of 5 stars, funny but my expectations were a bit high for this one.
Starter Kit by R.J. Sullivan Reminds me a bit of the Men in Black ending with giant aliens playing marbles with other universes. 3.5 out of 5 stars, extremely short.
A Little Faith by Max Allan Collins and Mathew Clemens. A Little Faith captures one of humanity’s worst fears, torture, and adds a little “Dark Faith”-slash-luck into the mix. The writers seemed very talented and the references to Dante’s Inferno and Clark Kent / Superman were tossed in there nicely. 3.5 out of 5.
The Revealed Truth by Mike Resnick. Don’t mess with people’s religions. 3.5 out of 5 stars
God’s Dig by Kelly Eiro. Wow another jaw dropper… A young boy hears God’s voice telling him to dig in his parent’s back yard. So he digs. This story is something else. 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Up to this point the anthology as a collection started out raging hot and has slowly cooled off. I’m very interested in seeing how the tail-end shorts finish up in comparison with the initial page burners.
The Divinity Boutique by Brian J. Hatcher and The Birth of a Pegasus by K. Tempest Bradford are two completely different stories, one about a man looking for his own personal god, while the other is a unique piece about Athena looking for a way to get rid of her mother Medusa. They are good stories, but they didn’t wow me like some of the others. 3 out of 5 stars for them both.
All This Pure Light Leaking In by LaShawn M. Wanak. Don’t try summoning an angel; you might not like what it entails if you actually succeed. Surprisingly, I liked this one; unique formatting and an odd style to it, along with the fact that the story is just plainly put feels different from the others so far. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Oh man! I’m sorry but I feel like some of my input for these shorts are getting shorter and shorter themselves but damn there are bunches of them and I want to try and do each one justice and give each their own mention, however brief. I noted in another review of an anthology that if the writer took the time and effort to put together their short and submit it for review then it at least deserves a small amount of attention no matter how great or terrible it is.
Fin Del Siecle By Gemma Files is another of my favorites so far. Gustave Knauff is a long deceased painter of atrocious things and vile images; perhaps he saw them or only envisioned their likeness when he was informed of them by the former archangel of punishment. This story is spectacular; I can’t get the sight of the angel shuffling her card deck out of my mind. However, for some reason I struggled with a descriptive write up for this one, but I truly loved it. 5 out of 5 stars.
The Angel Seems by Jeffery Ford sparks comparisons for me with Stephen King’s Storm of the Century. Alfrod Seems is an angel that suddenly appears in a small village and promises to protect them if they will but grant him his choice of a servant for one year. When the angel Seems begins to abuse his power will the people stand up against him and do they have any chance whatsoever? 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Magdala Amygdala By Lucy A. Snyder gives me the creeps which is a positive. There is a certain scene in which our main character is sucking and probing the brain juices of another character with her tongue, lapping at the crevices like a thirsty dog finding a fresh water bowl. Shivers. The ending of this one is pretty sweet too. 4 out of 5 stars.
A Strange Form of Life by Laird Barron. A guard and convict are enjoying the forbidden pleasures of one another in the bowels of an old prison. Afterwards they chat for awhile and have a smoke, but everything isn’t as it seems. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
In Blood and Song by Nisi Shawl and Michael Ehart. A unique cultural boxing match turns into an all out brawl. Mix a bit of magic with gambling and you have an entertaining short presented from multiple angles. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Little Lies, Dear Leader by Kyle S. Johnson is probably my least favorite. When compared with the other shorts this one stands out to me as not quite fitting in the mold as the rest, and I found myself waiting for something else to happen with the ending. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
The concluding short by Douglas F. Warrick, “I Inhale The City, The City Exhales Me”, is like watching the creation of a deranged anime cartoon come to life. Not normally my thing, but this short rocked and sums up my entire opinion of Dark Faith: Invocation. 5 out of 5 stars.
My summary in short:
Dark Faith: Invocation is a stellar anthology that when stacked up against some others I’ve read, it blows them away. I’m basing my comparison grade mainly off of another great anthology collection, Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous and have to say that Dark Faith gets the go ahead nod here. The biggest lasting impression Dark Faith leaves me with is that all the authors in this anthology were able to construct such wild, imaginative, and varying ideas yet their stories still fit together within the overall premise. When thinking about trying to write a fantastical story in any genre, certain ideas become routine; often breaking into unknown territory seems near impossible. The writers in Dark Faith: Invocations shatter all these guidelines and boundaries, leaving us with a broader scope and vision that anything is imaginable with a little Dark Faith. 9.5 out of 10 Liams. The actual book itself is a beauty also for the bookshelves, folks. So go buy yourself an unforgettable read.
(I Almost failed to mention the phenomenal job by the editors, Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, in compiling this wonderful book)
Tons of thanks to Apex Publications and Lesley Connor for providing me with this review copy.