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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Mysterion, ed. Donald S. Crankshaw & Kristin Janz

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Mysterion

(Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith)

Edited by

Donald S. Crankshaw and Kristin Janz

(Enigmatic Mirror Press, July 20, 2016)

 

The Monastic” by Daniel Southwell
When I was Dead” by Stephen Case
Forlorn” by Bret Carter
Too Poor to Sin” by H. L. Fullerton
Golgotha” by David Tallerman
Of Thine Impenetrable Spirit” by Robert B. Finegold, MD
A Good Hoard” by Pauline J. Alama
Yuri Gagarin Sees God” by J. S. Bangs
The Angel Hunters” by Christian Leithart
Cutio” by F. R. Michaels
Yuki and the Seven Oni” by S. Q. Eries
This Far Gethsemane” by G. Scott Huggins
Ascension” by Laurel Amberdine
Cracked Reflections” by Joanna Michal Hoyt
The Physics of Faith” by Mike Barretta
Horologium” by Sarah Ellen Rogers

Reviewed by Benjamin Wheeler

Mysterion is a collection of Christian themed short stories. The stories are varied, united by the theme than by any particular genre or character. This anthology has twenty stories, four of which are reprints and thus not reviewed here.

The Monastic” by Daniel Southwell starts strong with a story of a priest on a lone island living as a hermit. The priest discovers that some myths are real, and must come to grips with a new view of the world. The pacing is solid and while the cast is thin, they are well developed. The climax is well handled for a short story, and is a strong, dramatic start to the anthology.

Following is “When I was Dead” by Stephen Case. This story involves a dead woman searching for Jacob, who has himself moved on. It’s a little thick and bogged down with descriptions, with scarce action. The main character fights her own apathy, rather than anything actively in her way. This makes for a melancholic tale and may keep some from sympathizing with her.

Forlorn” by Bret Carter is a great ghost story. The main character must tell stories to someone he is forced to call his mother, or perish. The pacing is solid and there is a good level of tension throughout.

Too Poor to Sin” by H. L. Fullerton has a little girl trying to save chits to redeem her and her father’s sins. It is set in a theocratic quasi-post apocalyptic state where either you have ‘forgiveness’ or are a second class citizen. This is a very well written story, with worthwhile themes of tyranny, corruption, and what counts as personal redemption. The characters of the Father and the angels are well developed, with human motivations.

Golgotha” by David Tallerman concerns a missionary traveling to an island and discovering the island’s god, as told by a man relating the story to the missionary’s daughter. This is one of my favorites. Both the reactions of the missionary and the man telling the stories were very realistic. Their horror was palpable, much like a Lovecraft short story. I was very impressed by how the author handled it, yet made it very recognizable as a Christian story.

Of Thine Impenetrable Spirit” by Robert B. Finegold, MD handles transhumanism and the soul. The son of a tech mogul specializing in transhumanism falls deathly ill, and his father is desperate to save him. Transhumanism is a good theme in any SF work, and the author makes the argument that the morality of a person cannot be transferred merely by creating a copy of the mind into a new body.

Dragons are infesting a castle in “A Good Hoard” by Pauline J. Alama, and the good Duke is desperate to get them out. The idea that dragons are attracted to greed and the negative spirits of man, and grow with the failure to deal with them is a very Christian metaphor. Tom Simon’s Writing Down the Dragon is a good series of essays about this very thing, and I would not be surprised if the author has read it.

Yuri Gagarin Sees God” by J. S. Bangs is the true story of Yuri Gagarin, who was taken up into heaven upon reaching space. This is written as an article revealing the truth that the Soviets covered up the existence of God through Yuri’s space flight. It’s well worth the read.

The Angel Hunters” by Christian Leithart has big game hunters tracking down an ‘angel’ using advanced technology. It doesn’t end well for them. One of the themes of holy beings in the Bible is the terror they inspire, from generic fear to dying at the sight of Shekinah Glory. The theme is handled it pretty well, though the ending has a vague, hazy feel to it compared to the rest of the story.

Cutio” by F. R. Michaels is a fantastic horror story involving an ancient murderous robot, found broken in the ruins of a church. According to legend, the device attacks people for their sins, and despite the warnings of a priest, the main character is dead set to reactivate the robot. The pacing is well done and though the email style doesn’t give much detail, I could get a good feel for the robot, as well as the horror it evokes in others. One of this reviewer’s favorite in this anthology.

Yuki and the Seven Oni” by S. Q. Eries has Yuki resenting her new, Christian step-mother marrying her father. She runs into the woods and is captured by trolls. The faith of her mother keeps her alive. This is another favorite. The faith of the mother and the treatment of the power of prayer made this story worth the read.

This Far Gethsemane” by G. Scott Huggins is a science-fiction short story about a human named Shoshanna struggling to understand the murderous reproductive habits of the pair of aliens with whom she lives. This story discusses theology directly through the actions and words of the characters. It has a solid understanding of what place violence may have in the life of a Christian, as well as what Christianity may look like for a species very unhuman.

In “Ascension” by Laurel Amberdine, Marina visits the Holy Land to honor her dead grandmother, and discovers a relic in the Holy Sepulchre. One of the interesting parts of this tale is the ignoring of potentially miraculous circumstances. No one takes the experiences of Marina and her friends as anything but the mundane, or mental illness. It could be that we all witness the miraculous, but miss it because of the focus on our own lives.

Set in the 1920s, “Cracked Reflections” by Joanna Michal Hoyt is the story of an American-German hypochondriac warning Communists that the U.S. is going to deport them for sedition, foiling the U.S. agents but at the cost of an innocent friend. Depending on what side of things you fall on, you will either like or dislike the main character. The same with what she believes. The story also makes parallels via the communists and the recent refugee crisis. To be specific, a group from a less advanced society coming into a wealthier one and causing social upheaval, as well as the spreading of violence. The bombings of the government buildings at the hands of the Communists parallel with the bombings in Boston, France, and other places affected with a modern refugee crisis, or being influenced by it. The climax of the story isn’t so much the tragedy of certain characters, but rather the virtue signaling of the main character and the author. Time jumps, past and present, happen throughout the story and caused a little confusion, ruining the flow of the story.

The Physics of Faith” by Mike Barretta is another science fiction short story about a pair of men who harvest the dead bodies of junkies for cash. This story is well written with solid dystopian chops that really give a good feeling of the society falling apart. The ending really makes the story, as the build up and release of the tension was handled very well.

The last story, “Horologium” by Sarah Ellen Rogers, concerns the Anchoress, who is bricked up in a cell to pursue prayer and Jesus Christ, and what she sees from her window. This is another of the heavily Christian stories, and proves to be quite interesting. The story is well placed as the conclusion to the anthology, but was difficult to get into the Anchoress’ headspace compared to some of the other stories.

Mysterion certainly does everything that it set out to do. Some of the stories like “Golgotha” and “Yuki and the Seven Oni” are of superior quality and feel natural to the anthology. Others like “Cracked Reflections” or “When I was Dead” miss the mark by being concerned with their virtue, or being too detailed. Thankfully, those stories are definitely in the minority. Whether you are Christian or not, the anthology is worth reading.