It’s only after I finished the third story that I realised I might have run into a problem: My thoughts regarding the past three stories are all different so how am I going to go about rating this anthology?
In The Beginning: Dark Retellings of Biblical Tales
by Stephen Clements, Nicole Crucial, Mike Hays, Sharon Hughson, Marti Johnson, Elle O’Neill, Lora Palmer, Christina Raus, Laureen Cantwell
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Anthology
Publication Date: 25 October 2016
In the Beginning (Oct. 25, 2016) – Eight authors come together to build a powerful collection of dark young adult short stories inspired by the mysteries, faith, and darkness found within the Bible. Old Testament and New Testament, iconic and obscure figures alike are illuminated, explored, and re-envisioned throughout this charity anthology from Month9Books.
In The Beginning, ed. Laureen Cantwell and Georgia McBride
Daniel and the Dragon by Stephen Clements
A troubled orphan named Habakkuk dutifully follows his master, the prophet Daniel, into temples of blood-thirsty demon-gods, battles with unspeakable horrors, and bears witnesses to mind-breaking evil until his master’s zealous defiance of the king’s law seals their fate.
Babylon by Nicole Crucial
Far above the earth, in Second Eden, where moments and eternities all blur together, young Babylon befriends Sefer, the Book of Life. As Babylon awaits the moment she’ll fulfill her destiny, she and Sefer try to understand the world in which they live.
Last Will and Testament by Mike Hays
A homeless young boy, Baz, bears the weight of humanity on his shoulders and upon his body. When dark forces test a new-found friendship, Baz’s willingness to bear the ugliness of their world will be shaken.
The Demon Was Me by Sharon Hughson
Based on the story of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, this tale provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where a teenage boy seeks to journey to a better land and yearns to discover the kind of man he’s meant to be, only to be hijacked by an evil spirit intent upon chipping away at the hope, faith, and resilience of its host.
The Deluge by Marti Johnson
A non-believer shares the story of Noah’s ark-building and the deadly downpour that follows. Fear, faithlessness, and the fallibility of mankind collide in a community where second chances aren’t unlimited and a better-late- than-never attitude just might be your doom.
Condemned by Elle O’Neill
Just sixteen-years- old, Barabbas finds himself pulled out of Routlege Academy and into a reality show competition—against Jesus himself—where the reward for the winner is life.
First Wife by Lora Palmer
In a first-person retelling of the saga of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, themes of family, deception, guilt, and heartache emerge amidst the first days of Leah’s marriage to Jacob—a marriage mired in trickery a mere week before Jacob was to marry Leah’s sister Rachel.
Emmaculate by Christina Raus
Based on the story of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we enter the troubled mind of Emma, who finds herself torn between her religious upbringing and the purity ring that binds her to her boyfriend and the pregnancy that results from her relationship with another boy.
The fact that In The Beginning is a retelling of Bible verses and stories was what drew me to pick it up, but I was conflicted. What if I don’t recognise any of the stories that are being retold? Thankfully, there are verses included at the start of each chapter that tell readers where the authors drew their inspiration from and give them a rough idea of what the story may be about.
Each retelling was interesting in its own way. There were some set in the Bible itself, but from a different perspective or with a different ending, some contemporaries, and some set in a totally different world. I enjoyed each one, some more than others.
DANIEL AND THE DRAGON
This is the first story in the anthology and it certainly left a good impression on me. From what I’m guessing from the four verses given before the chapter (plus confirmation from Wikipedia), Daniel defeats the ‘dragon’ and goes on with his life, unharmed. But here, it’s given a more heart-breaking ending, and it left me wanting to see more of Daniel and Habakkuk. Also, I originally thought Hab was an OC but apparently he exists in the Bible ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
I’m not really sure what to think of this. It was cute, heart-breaking, and kinda confusing towards the end. It was beautifully written though and I really loved the friendship between Sefer and Babylon.
LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
Ahh the first, somewhat, contemporary retelling in this book but it left me feeling unsatisfied. The Isiah Boy is certainly an interesting concept but the world building is weak. Why does this thing called the Extraordinary League of Witch Assassins even exist?? What do they do? Do they actually actively go on witch hunts? Plus that ending… ain’t an ending at all. Just look at the third last line:
“Times are changing, Geoffery. The old enemies are gaining strength
and the old wars are returning.”
Umm… that seems like a cliffhanger to me.
THE DEMON WAS ME
This was more inspirational than dark, but it’s still one of my favourites in this anthology. For one, I love the world presented to us here. A nuclear war? A place separated by a demon-inhabited abyss? One side has cool tech whereas the other lags behind? Sounds pretty cool to me. I think this would do nice as a full-length novel.
Finally, finally, a Bible story I recognise: Noah’s Ark. But hey, ever thought about what those non-believers thought of Noah when they saw him preaching about God and building the Ark? Then you’ve come to the right place. Even though it was pretty dull till people actually started dying, well, at least it’s a story I had prior knowledge about. I especially liked the choice of character for this story. The Deluge is told from Naomi’s perspective. She’s young, not yet an adult, has a bright future in front of her, even has a boyfriend, but all that was taken away by The Flood, and that just adds to the heartbreak.
One would think that since this story is reminisce of The Hunger Games so it might appeal to young adults like me. Well, for one, I didn’t even like The Hunger Games. I found it dull. And similarly, I found Condemned to be pretty dull as well. It was pretty easy to understand so I could skim through the pages without missing out on much. I still found it interesting that Barabbas, a fearsome criminal in the Bible, is now in the form of an innocent young boy and given an entire story revolving around him. But it still kept the essence of Barabbas being favoured by the masses and being allowed to live.
I vaguely remember the original story for this one, and only because of the “seven years” part. I don’t remember Leah or Rachel or the proceedings of the original events but I think it was simply expanded on. From Wikipedia, I know that Laban tricked Jacob into working another seven years for him by marrying him off to Leah instead of Rachel, but what happened during that wedding? What thoughts were running through the characters heads, or more specifically, Leah’s head?
This one just seemed weird and unrealistic to me. While that ending was heart-wrenching, I highly doubt that such an event will garner so much international attention. It certainly will go viral, but like everything that went viral, it’ll get swept under the rug sooner or later. Surely with what scientific knowledge we have found out till this day, people would be more hesitant to believe such a story… right?
Overall, an interesting read. I wouldn’t say they’re… “dark” but some do touch on topics like rape and abortion. I’m pretty sure in an anthology there’s a story for everyone (or if not, most people), so why not give it a try?
Stephen Clements earned a Masters in Political Science from the University of Memphis, served a stint in the US Army with a heaping long tour in Iraq, and would never recommend Baghdad as a vacation spot. When he got out, he cornered and married a mean, beautiful woman, and they have three corgis and one murderous cat. He has three books, with a recent short story in Memphis Noir. He loves history, theology, travel, and making wine.
Nicole Crucial is a creative writing student at UNC Wilmington. Her hobbies outside of reading and writing include social media, Netflix, yoga (sometimes), costuming, organizing things, and spoiling her cat. She loves writing about fantastic worlds because she is certain that she would not survive in them. You can visit her website at: http://www.nicolecrucial.com.
Mike Hays is from Kansas, a tried and true flatlander by birth. He relishes the fact his adult self can now make stuff up and not be sent to the principal’s office for it. His life is built around stories—whether as a dad, a molecular microbiologist, a high school sports coach, or as an author— stories are key. He writes mainly from a boy point of view and hopes to spread ideas and stupid-funny inspiration through his books, blogs, and social media. His upper middle-grade historical fiction, The Young Days, is about a family’s survival in the fallout from the violent Border War over “Bloody” Kansas. Connect with him on Twitter (@coachhays64).
Nurtured through a troubled teenhood by Aslan in Narnia, Sharon Hughson has long appreciated the power of the written word. She has published romance and women’s fiction, but her dream is to write young adult fantasy, a genre she credits for keeping her alive during her parents’ turbulent divorce and the chaotic readjustments that followed. Sharon fuels her imagination with recollections from years of motherhood and a lifetime of experience working with young people, at church and in public school. She resides in Oregon with her husband, sons and three cats, where she spends her non-writing hours substitute teaching, reading, playing piano, enjoying the outdoors and scrapbooking her family’s memories.
Marti Johnson was born on an American Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She has lived in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Nevada and California. Marti hiked and climbed mountains as a girl and young teen, and spent many years on horseback in the scenic eastern Sierras in California. She is the author (under her given name, Margaret Johnson) of Dark Horse Spirit: Beyond Redemption published in 2014, and is currently working on a sequel.
Elle O’Neill loves reading and writing—from her first all-nighter as a seven-year-old with autographed copies of David Adler’s Cam Jansen books to her high school and college English and creative writing classes. She believes that you can fall into the world of a book and find yourself. While she sometimes has a hard time separating fiction from reality (or is it that she prefers not to?), she likes to think that’s a whimsical asset. She enjoys reading just about anything, but treasures underdogs and bluestockings—their trials and successes feel close to home.
Lora Palmer writes science fiction and fantasy for young adults. Her debut novel, The MirrorMasters, is forthcoming from Clean Reads. Bucks County, Pennsylvania is her home, where she resides with her wonderful husband and their mischievous cat. She has earned a graduate degree in Psychology and works at a local residential facility serving autistic children and teens. In her spare time, she also sings in a praise band, Chalice Sounds.
Christina Raus earned her BA in Creative Writing from Western New England University in 2015. She received the Max Y. Litman English Prize for literary analysis and written communication upon her graduation. She has written articles for Lioness Magazine, a digital publication for female entrepreneurs. Originally from Massachusetts, she currently resides in New York, where she is attending Sarah Lawrence College and working on a novel. She is expected to graduate from Sarah Lawrence’s MFA in Creative Writing Program in 2017. “Emmaculate” is her first fiction publication.
LAUREEN P. CANTWELL, Editor:
Laureen grew up in eastern Long Island and eventually found her way to Memphis —“the rock ’n’ roll side of Tennessee,” where she worked as a librarian at the University of Memphis and grew to love the darkness of the city—and Elvis. While there, she proposed and co-edited an anthology of short fiction, Memphis Noir, part of Akashic Books’ renowned Noir series published in November 2015. That adventure led to a conversation with Georgia McBride at a library conference, and to the thrilling experience of working with In the Beginning and putting together a charity anthology full of complex stories suitable for a young adult audience. She currently lives in Western Colorado and works as a librarian for Colorado Mesa University.
GEORGIA McBRIDE, Editor:
Georgia lives in North Carolina with her kids and husband. She has three dogs, one bird, and a fish. She loves to read, watch movies, listen to music, and go see films. She is a publisher, producer, writer, and editor. She has never met a piece of bacon she did not eat, or a cup of coffee she did not drink.