Review: “The Bad Book,” ed. John F.D. Taff

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Bad Book is an anthology curated by John F.D. Taff that takes as its premise: what if biblical stories, but horror? The result is intriguing.

Hailey Piper is up to her usual hijinks with “Wife-Beast of Eden,” a story about Adam as the spoiled golden child and woman as nothing more than a gift for him. Eve finds out things she’d rather not know and comes across Lilith in the outskirts of the garden. Kristi DeMeester’s “To Dash Their Heads Against the Stones” is about a young woman who is possessed by the ghosts of infants. It’s a very sad and difficult read.

A body is not a house. A body can hold so much more.

Alan Baxter’s “Nurturing His Nature” is a creepy serial killer tale in which one experienced killer finds a budding killer who could use a few pointers. As you might guess from this, some tales fit the theme in more roundabout ways than others. Mark Matthews brings us “Golgorth Street,” in which a pair of junkies raise a Christ-like child while dealing heroin for a terrifying man. I didn’t feel like the growing child had much personality beyond his purpose in the story, but otherwise the tale was interesting.

V. Castro brings us “The House that Demons Built,” which roams from the Thomas Jefferson days of the White House to a future in which the world may end. A woman named Luisa Aguila is wide-open to calls from the dead, and she’s afraid of what she’ll see when she takes her son Lorenzo to the White House on a school trip. I had trouble getting into this one, but the ending is really interesting. Errick Nunnally’s “Tooth and Axe” is an unusual story in which a slave learns what freedom could be, after watching his Master take Rasa’s mother’s teeth to replace his own. There is a chunk of missing time in this one that I wanted to know more about, but it’s still a complete story.

Cindy O’Quinn’s “A Gathering on the Mountain” is one of my favorites. A young woman named Hobeth Freeborn has the sight, and she can tell that a traveling faith healer is evil. She isn’t the only one who’s noticed, however, and the mountain people have their own ways of handling con artists. Samantha Kolesnik’s “Shrewd” is another of my favorites. Marge lives in a sleepy town, working a dead-end job, married to a man she doesn’t love. When she finds herself attracted to the new stock boy, Harper, her life takes a very unexpected turn. This story did not go anywhere that I could have anticipated, but I absolutely loved it. Another favorite? Sarah Read’s “Seeing Stones.” A religious zealot is killing practicing psychics, and a psychic detective is brought in on the case. This is absolutely beautiful in how it’s handled. Todd Keisling does an excellent job with “Gethsemane,” in which we get a very different look at why Judas might have betrayed Jesus. There are some wonderful cosmic horror hints here that totally made this piece for me. Philip Fracassi’s “Marmalade” tells the story of a big orange cat who seems to work miracles on the sick–and the horrors that follow.

“Son of Man,” by doungjai gam and Ed Kurtz, is a creepy story about a former felon who finds an unusual form of salvation. It does raise some interesting questions about how to handle the urge to sin. John Langan’s “El” is an interesting tale that hints at older truths than what we see in the Bible.

My favorite stories were almost all (except for Keisling’s entry) not explicitly and overtly biblical in nature, but rather dealt with modern-day issues surrounding religion. All of them depicted rich worlds in quick strokes with intriguing characters at the core. The more religious/explicitly biblical stories are also quite good, but which you prefer will depend on your likes and dislikes as a reader.

Content note: miscarriage, animal death, drug use, dismemberment/disfigurement, removal of teeth, murder, child death.

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