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2010 Stories 116 - 120

Continuing my pre-publication review of Dark Faith, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon.  The book is available for pre-order on the Apex Book Company website.


116. First Communions by Geoffrey Girard  Girard's story explores the act of faith in an act, if that makes sense.  The main female character is a young child when a teenage girl commits suicide in a neighbor's driveway, and spends the next eight years or so thinking she understands why the girl did it.  Her belief influences her own life actions, but also influences the mysterious older boy / young man who lived in the house where the suicide happened.  This is one of the few stories in the book in which nothing overtly supernatural happens;  a nice change of pace. The story feels a bit disjointed in places, thanks to the constant shifting of tense ... but that may actually have been the author's desired affect.  I think the story is meant to leave you sort of reeling.  The tone of the story actually put me in mind of movies The Ice Storm (Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood, Christina Ricci) and The Chumscrubber (Jamie Bell, Glenn Close) -- in fact, I can picture Jamie Bell as the older boy in the story, with perhaps Dakota Fanning as the younger female lead. (It is rare for me to so clearly picture a movie cast for a short story, by the way.)

117. The God of Last Moments
by Alethea Kontis  From a story with no overt supernatural element, to a story that starts out equally as mundane in setting and tone but which veers slowly back into the supernatural.  I liked the beginning of this story, with its slowly revealed mystery of a package arriving from a recently-deceased mother.  I liked the slow introduction of the supernatural into the story -- first teasing you with the possibility that the gift is not what it seems (or from where it seems) and then leading you to wonder if something supernatural is really happening, or if the main character actually daydreamed what just seems to have happened, and finally letting the supernatural element rip full bore through the remainder of the story.  I can't say I didn't see the first twist coming, but it was satisfactorily placed within the story and then built upon.  The ending feels just a little bit empty, sort of like the author wanted to do a bit more with it but then opted not to. Or perhaps the unanswered questions and somewhat open ending are meant to fuel interest in future stories with these characters.  It would make sense If this turned out to be a "pilot episode" for something else.

118. Ring Road by Mary Robinette Kowal  Prophetic (day-)dreams, an old world setting in which modern things just don't seem to work (cell phones are mentioned twice and fail to function either time; cars do what they're supposed to but feel highly out of place regardless), characters who love each other but fail to speak the same language (literally as well as metaphorically).  Kowal creates a wonderful story in which the myths and legends of our childhood, the stories upon which we feed alongside mother's milk, infringe upon the real world.  As with several other stories in this book, the main characters at first think they must be dreaming / experiencing deja vu / misunderstanding what is going on around them, although the reader knows the truth long before the characters accept it.  There is a dream-like quality to the story, but also some sharply "awake" details as the main female character realizes what is happening.

119. The Unremembered
by Chesya Burke  I hate to say it, but I have to be honest in my reviews.  I did not like this story.  It felt like the least polished, most unfinished story in the book.  The concept is an interesting one: the ancient tradition of griots, or oral scribes, is passed down to a modern girl who suffers from extreme autism after skipping several generations, and the power of that tradition may save her life.  The author attempts to weave old stories of various parts of the African continent in between the modern scenes in an (American?) hospital.  There seems to be too much going on and not enough going on at the same time.  The "old stories" feel rushed and undeveloped. The hospital scenes are scattershot -- are they about autism, about miraculous illnesses that import divine intervention (a head-circling version of stigmata, ala Sylar on "Heroes"), about enduring parental love in the face of terminal illness, about the Church's use / abuse of miracles for It's own purpose?  All of this is set up, but none of it really pays off in the rushed ending.

120. Desperata, or, The Desiderata of H.P. Lovecraft  by Lon Prater  In an anthology about faith, someone had to write something about Chthulu and the rest of the Lovecraft Mythos.  This poem strikes just the right balance, written in the right archaic style and referencing all the usual Lovecraft touchstones.  A fun read, almost like the perfect antithesis to Neil Giaman's poem "Instructions."

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