Friday, January 25, 2013

Dark Faith: Invocations, a Review

A few weeks ago I received a copy of Apex Publications newest anthology, Dark Faith: Invocations.  This book, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon, is a follow-up to the highly acclaimed DARK FAITH, a book that was nominated for multiple awards within in the genre.  Invocations sets out to “explore the concept of faith in a fantastical setting” through various religious and spiritual viewpoints.  

As the title suggests, most of these viewpoints will stem from the darker side of faith.  I imagined the stories to be heavy, but I had no idea how heavy they would be until I started reading.  It’s like watching the most recent version of Battlestar Galactica, in that each episode (story) is so dramatic and heavy that I can only handle one or two at a time.  And that’s how I read this anthology, taking a story in with my lunch each day. 

My immediate reactions are recorded below for each story.  I’ve remained spoiler-free.  Boldfaced stories are the ones that I can most recommend.  The star ranking follows the GoodReads 5-point scale.


Subletting God’s Head (Tom Piccirilli) – Did not really like at all.  A jaded and cynical guy rents an apartment that’s located inside God’s head.  Not a great way to start the collection, though it definitely sets the tone for what’s to come.  *

The Cancer Catechism (Jay Lake) – Depressing, but well written and thought-provoking.  I imagine the author is intimately aware of a life stricken with this terrible disease.  Still, very bleak and mostly without a clear conflict (excepting the obvious).  **

The Big Blue Peacock (Nick Mamatas) – I’m not sure I know exactly what happened in this story.  **

Kill the Buddha (Elizabeth Twist) – The first piece that I’ve really liked so far.  This hooked me from the get-go and didn’t let up until the end.  Delightful to read and a unique idea.  The world is infected and attacked, at least according to some.  *****

Robotnik (Lavie Tidhar) – Another delightful and thought-provoking story.  I’d like to see this short turned into a novella or something longer.  The world created by Tidhar leaves me very curious about everything in it.  The melancholic tone was perfectly fitting, too.  Great work.  ***** 

Prometheus Possessed (Matt Cardin) – Eh… That would be my immediate reaction.  What?  That would be my follow-up.  This one reminded me of a cyberpunkish noir story, but told in a format that was very off-putting, kind of a second-person omniscient voice.  Sort of.  Some great imagery, but the overall impact of the story left me scratching my head.  ** 

Night Train (Alma Alexander) – Some nice prose and interesting themes, but this didn’t speak too much to me.  A woman is losing her religion on a train… or finding it.  ***

The Sandfather (Richard Wright) – Oh.  Nice.  Absolutely tragic, but a wonderful little tale.  This is a bleak story that is all too realistic.  The absence of a father leads to an interesting life for a boy.  *****
Sacrifice (Jennifer Pelland) – Wow.  This was a short and entertaining little piece that fans of a What if… scenario should love.  ****

Thou Art God (Tim Waggoner) – Hmm.  A second person POV is always fickle, but Waggoner did a pretty good job with this.  It kept me engaged, though I felt the tale contrived and familiar. ***

Wishflowers (Tim Pratt) – An engrossing little story with a rich world and an interesting premise.  There is a dandelion-like flower that actually grants wishes when blown.  What happens to that kind of world?  This story is the kind of thing I look for in an anthology.  *****

Coin Drop (Richard Dansky) – Now that was rather original.  The office vending machine is not exactly what it seems.  This was a pretty clever piece, with some familiar tropes but a unique perspective.  Fun to read.  ****

Starter Kit (R.J. Sullivan) – Another fun little story that provided some thoughts on a common cliché pertaining to Creation.  I liked this piece.  **** 

A Little Faith (Max Allan Collins & Matthew Clemens) – Not really sure why this story is in this collection.  The subject matter seems fitting, but the overall feeling doesn’t jive well.  A well-written piece that was basically a romp through a waterboarding experience. ***

The Revealed Truth (Mike Resnick) – Started off promising but quickly devolved into something less than I had hoped.  Quasi-amusing but ultimately unsatisfying.  ** 

God’s Dig (Kelly Eiro) – Oh.  Wow.  That’s a speculative piece, and in few words, too!  This one left me pondering.  A boy hears from God that there’s a present for him buried in the back yard.  ***** 

Divinity Boutique (Brian J. Hatcher) – Hmm.  Reminds me of a Lovecraft bit, honestly, but a little more interesting.  A man is at a curiosity shop in the market for a new, personal god. ***

The Birth of Pegasus (K. Tempest Bradford) – Not entirely sure what just happened here.  Certainly readable, but the impact was lost on me.  ***

All This Pure Light Leaking In (LaShawn M. Wanak) – A beautiful little poem filled with a few biblical errors (or false perceptions of clear biblical facts), we have a story of a few friends deciding to summon an angel.  ****

Fin de Siecle (Gemma Files) – I couldn’t finish this piece.  I read a few pages and had no idea what in the world was going on.  Something about an artist and an angel and not sure.

The Angel Seems (Jeffrey Ford) – Hands down the best story in the collection.  Reads just like an Old English fairy tale with a proclivity toward the macabre.  An angel offers a village its protection in exchange for a small price.  This was very speculative and I enjoyed it very much.  Makes me want to as Mr. Ford how he came up with the tale.  Wow.   ***** 

Magdala Amygdala (Lucy A. Snyder) – Not your typical zombie/vampire SFF story.  In a post-plague world nearly all of humanity is infected with a peculiar disease that progresses through four stages of severity.  Most of the populous is fine, but a select few aren’t so lucky… or maybe they’re the lucky ones.  A fun, if not disgusting, short.  ***

A Strange Form of Life (Laird Barron) – Has a noir feel to it.  Very dark and quite vulgar.  Also quite trippy.  The formatting was a bit confusing on the Kindle, but not too hard to get.  A story about a guard and a lover at a prison with a very dark history.  ***

In Blood and Song (Nisi Shawl & Michael Ehart) – An Arabic infused short story about a fighting ring and the sorcery that goes on around it.  Somewhat confusing at first, but quickly attainable, and then again dropping into confusion for the ending.  There was action aplenty, though.  ***

Little Lies, Dear Leader (Kyle S. Johnson) – This is a fictional story set in a non-fictional place with a non-fictional message about problems in the world.  Quite engrossing, yes, but also terrible and ruthless.  The tragedy is the non-fiction in the fiction.  The concluding paragraphs were jarring and somewhat awkward, but nevertheless appropriate.  This piece seems out of place with this anthology in terms of genre.  **** 

I Inhale the City, the City Exhales Me (Douglas F. Warrick) – This is for the manga lover, Japanese culture lover, video game lover.  The story is both meta and not.  An American man is being chased by a cowboy, while the city of Osaka is quickly changing into something else.  This was a weird piece and kind of misses the “faith” side of the anthology’s purpose. Readable and confusing, but fun.  ***


So of the twenty-six stories, there were some real treats.  I can’t decide if Jeffrey Ford’s “The Angel Seems” or Kelly Eiro’s “God’s Digs” is my favorite.  Both were really great to read and wonderful in their own way.  I almost felt like “Wishflowers” would fit nicely into the Dark Tower universe.  Elizabeth Twist’s “Kill the Buddha” had a great premise, one that would play out nicely on the big screen.

Dark Faith: Invocations is an interesting anthology.  It’s certainly not for the casual reader or the reader desiring lollipops and roses.  The stories pack a punch.  There are some forgettable works, yes, and some confusing pieces, too, but I’m sure they would resonate with a different reader.  All in all, I can recommend this to a Reader who knows what they’re after.  Weird, dark, and twisted, Dark Faith: Invocations is a crazy little read.

FTC Thingy: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for a review.  No monies or other goods were exchanged.  No illegal cookie trading going on here.  Move along.  Move along.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Radical Question & A Radical Idea, a Review

This review is long overdue.  I received David Platt’s The Radical Question and A Radical Idea back in November, right in the midst of my selling my house and various other things.  As such, the book disappeared from my mind.  Really a shame when you consider the importance of this little work.

Platt is best known for his challenging book Radical, a book which I’ve perused but never fully read.  The book is essentially a message to each and every person that calls themselves a Christian.  The message is simple to hear, but incredibly difficult to follow.  The message? 

Well that’s what The Radical Question* addresses.  How much is Jesus really worth?  Is he worth everything?  The Bible makes that a mandate, quite clearly, and Platt expounds on this for the 21st century Christian. There are practical examples established, though following those examples takes true commitment.

If you’ve never read any of Platt’s works (or listened to the man preach) then you’re missing out.  His heart is in his message, and the gospel of Jesus is nothing to shy away from.  The Radical Question and A Radical Idea is a great introduction to David Platt’s writing, but only should be read for the uninitiated into his catalog.  For those familiar you won’t find anything new here.  A quick little book definitely worth the message. 

FTC Thingy: Free book to me for review, even if late. No cookies still.  Sorry.  No coercion, either.


*Note: The Radical Question is essentially the first chapter of Radical with some modifications, making it a succinct little message book that’s the perfect size for a gift (especially graduates).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 in on Cat's Feet

I find myself writing as a twenty-seven year old, stomping my feet to a Counting Crows' cover of Pure Prairie League's "Amie," reflecting on the hundreds of blue words I just had directed in my general direction, cold from below freezing temperatures and warmed from a rugged Carhartt.  Life, it seems, is treating me better than I deserve.

Heading off to HazMat training for the next few days.  Gonna be holed up in a ultra fancy, sleek, swanky, modern hotel, learning about hazardous waste and how to correctly (i.e. safely) manage it.  Ever a student, I really enjoy going to classes and workshops and things.

Well, there's Matchbox Twenty on shuffle.  They were a favorite back in high school, and I suppose I still can dig it. 

Settling into the new house (still unnamed).  Furnace has finally been replaced.  Only out four grand from the start.  Quite disappointing to not have followed the inspector's suggestion at getting the furnace further examined.  Nevertheless, I learn. 

On a creative writing note, I've done hardly a thing.  A few ideas scribbled in haste, but nothing more than that.  I've had a fundamental shift of focus on writing and it's kind of restrictive.

And well, it's my birthday, so really I guess that's about it.  Journaling's prominent flames are now reduced to embers.  Poor, neglected Rememorandom.  Looks like I may shift the blog to a more focused thing, too, using it only as a collection for reviews and little more.  Makes sense, honestly.  Makes me a bit sad, too.  We'll see.

Friday, January 04, 2013

My Reading List: 2012 Edition

Ah, 2012, what a most crazy year it was.  My reading list was subject to the almighty 2012 Manifesto (see the tab above, or click here) and the rules established therein.  Overall, it was a (surprising) success.  Roughly 150 books were on the list as of December 31, 2011.  By the end of 2012, I had the list down to 79 books.  Not too shabby.  Additionally, a goal was to utilize the library more and to decrease book spending, and the fact that I spent less than $10* last year on books is astounding.

My actual books read hit 67 for 2012, a 43% increase from the previous year.  Page numbers were almost identical, with only a 4% increase for this year, although to be fair, my audio book consumption was more for 2012, too.

As always, the monster spreadsheet is available here for your perusal if you're so inclined.  I still very much enjoy the statistical analysis of my books, and I'm ever disappointed with the failures of the system.  Still, I press on.  Enjoy.


     Oldest book: The Children of Odin, by Padraic Colum, 1920
     Audio books: 10
     E-books: 15
     Library books: 20
     Books actually published in 2012: 6
     Books forsaken: 2 (The Brothers Karamazov & The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft)
     Books from publishers, et. al received: 11
     Books from publishers, et. al reviewed: 8
     Most popular author: Brian Michael Bendis
     Most popular publisher: Marvel Comics
     Busiest reading month: January
     Total Page Numbers: 16172
     Average Book Score: 3.45
     Weighted Average Book Score: 3.44
     Female/Male Ratio: 2/33

Much of the early part of the year was spent reading through a giant stack of Daredevil comics that my buddy Adam let me borrow.  Truly, it was the entire run of Volume 2, which took over 120 issues to complete.  This was an excellent series to read and it showed me how wonderful Brian Michael Bendis is when he's behind a pen.  Another point of interest is how close the average book score is to the weighted average, meaning that my (somewhat arbitrary) enjoyment was correlated with page count.  And most staggering of all is the embarrassingly low F/M ratio.  I really want this number to go up, but sadly my genres of choice are mostly dominated by male authors.  Regardless, there are plenty of female authors on my radar (and my TBR), and I hope to get to some in 2013.

The sub-genre breakdown is much the same as previous years.  Not much need for explanation here but to note the sub-genres that are missing from previous years.  (It's also interesting to me to see how my mind seems to jump to classifying a genre and sub-genre, and I wonder if when I look at this list again if my opinions will change.)


This year had three standout fiction books that really were wonderful stories, one non-fiction work, and a run of comics.  All of these earned 5 stars on my GoodReads scale.  (Reviews are linked.)

     The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
     Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
     The Reapers Are the Angels, by Alden Bell
     The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns
     Daredevil Volume 2: Assorted TPBs (from Volume 4 through Volume 13), by Bendis

To pick a favorite from this list would be based on mood and whim.  Lies was twisted and insanely fun.  Stardust brought a smile to my lips and I read is basically twice.  Reapers blew me away and took a piece of my heart with it, giving me one of the best protagonists I've read in ages.  Hole was matter-of-fact with the current situation in the world, of how many people die annually of stupid stuff, of how many children suffer needlessly, and this book helped shape me.  And Daredevil, as I've already mentioned, was a fun (and merciless) set of comics, especially BMB's section.

Other Things of Note

Since my new commute is longer I've been listening to a lot of audio books.  I expect my numbers for next year to be even higher in this category, assuming my cd player keeps up.  I'm really enjoying The Wheel of Time in this manner, whereas when I tried to read the physical books I enjoyed it as much as I enjoy looking at a dirty bowl.  I may try Jim Butcher's Dresden Files this way, too.

A tragedy that my new house is in a new county with an impoverished library.  How I miss my old one.

The 2012 manifesto was a fun thing to try.  I like looking at that tab and seeing all the crossed off books.  While I'm thankful to have done it (and stuck with it!), I'm glad to have more freedom now if I so desire.

*See the actual manifesto for a more thorough explanation