the Little Red Reviewer

King David and the Spiders From Mars

Posted on: March 5, 2014

King David Spiders from MarsKing David and the Spiders From Mars, edited by Tim Lieder

published March 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the editor (thanks Tim!)

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I don’t know about you, but I love mythology. I especially love it when authors take liberties with unexplored details. What was the backstory of that minor character? That other person must have had a good reason to do something strange/wonderful/awful/unexpected, right?  When I think “mythology”, I often think Greek, Roman, or Norse mythos.  But there is a mythology that’s even closer to me. One that I grew up with. One that’s rarely referred to as mythology, but that’s what it is. The Bible: history, literature, mythology, and faith, all rolled into one,  mythology in the most revered definition of the word: stories of the days that created a culture.  It’s books like King David and the Spiders From Mars that make me want to open up my big fat Myths and Legends of Ancient Israel book, or go to the library and find some dusty tome that will tell me the ending of the story they only told the beginning of in Sunday school.

King David and the Spiders From Mars is the second anthology in editor Tim Lieder’s series of Biblical Horror stories. I enjoyed the hell out of the first one, She Nailed A Stake Through His Head, (read my review) and I’ve been looking forward to more of the same ever since.  Same as with Nailed a Stake, you don’t need any kind of Biblical or Judeo-Christian education to enjoy these short stories. In fact, you’d be better served by being familiar with Chthulhu mythos.

Starting at the literal beginning, the first story is nicely tragic, but not end-of-the-world destructive. And then everything slowly ramps up, with the last two stories having the potential to really fuck you up.

here are my thoughts on a few of my favorites:

Moving Nameless, by Sonya Taaffe – How many wives did Adam have? According to myth, God made a woman right in front of Adam, built her from organs and bone and muscle and sinew, and Adam was so disgusted (you might be too, seeing a person built from the inside out!) that he never again looked up her.  And she’s been wandering the Earth ever since, looking for an Adam who might be able to love her.  Her name isn’t Eva, but that’s what her current boyfriend, Adam Loukides, calls her.  He’s a book collector, has a fondness for out of print books, can’t wait to show her around his apartment, he never questions the fact that she doesn’t talk about her family.  It doesn’t matter that this latest Adam doesn’t believe in God, or doesn’t believe her story, that doesn’t make her story any less true or the curse any less painful. He will come to be disgusted by her, no matter if he believes in her story or not. Shunned forever, for something that was outside of her control, it makes me wish the nameless woman got another opportunity to interact with the original Adam.

Three Young Men by Romie Stott – Wow is that a helluva shocking opening! holy shit! You’ll have gotten your money’s worth if you buy this anthology just for the first page of this story. Anyway, three young men accompanied Daniel to “study” under King Nebuchadnezzar. The brothers try to hold on to their faith, but are forced to take names in the local language, they are forced to eat the King’s food which is strange and foreign to them, and the king’s magicians force the brothers to try to learn magic and scrying. The brothers have started to forget the names their parents gave them.  They fear seeing false gods in the scryings. While Daniel is diplomatically interpreting the King’s dreams, the brothers find strength in starvation. When  Nebuchadnezzar demands their execution by being burned alive, the brothers will learn how strong they have become.

The Chronicles of Aliyat, son of Aliyat, From the Chronicles of the Kings of Ashdod, by Alter Reiss – from the title, you can probably guess this is written in a more old fashioned style of prose. Outside the Kindgom of Judah lies the city of Ashdod. When an exiled Judean arrives, he makes all sorts of promises to the King.  I will destroy your enemies! I make your city grow  powerful! I will smite you enemies with leprosy!  these things and more he promises, if only the King allows him slaves and materials enough to build a small private temple. An agreement is made, a temple is built, Ashdod grows powerful.   When the King is killed, families demand to know what has become of their children who were forced to enter the temple of the stranger, never to be seen again.  They break into the Temple.  This story gets muddled and strange and dreamy by the end. I had to read it a few times. And then I realized there are two stories in this anthology with a connection to the Cthulhu mythos.

God Box by Lyda Morehouse – the second to last story in the collection, this is where the horror begins for real. Kayla Okiro is a priest at the church in the colony on Ganymede.  We’ve been there for a while, but the Rovers have returned, claiming Ganymede as their homeland, and insisting that the humans leave immediately. But we’re pretty entrenched, and why would we up and leave the major source of precious water in the Jovian system (hey, this sounds familiar. And contemporary)?  The soldiers bring a captured box to her church, because they don’t know where else to take it. It’s rumored that inside the box is a piece of the Rover’s God.  As a young woman, Kayla had been a rebel during the Martian insurrection, and was captured, punished and reeducated. It was in a prison where she found Jesus. No matter what she’s been through, no matter what’s been done to her, Jesus will always love her. He is the one constant in her life. What’s inside the box?  Something powerful enough to irreparably change a marble statue of Jesus Christ, and nearly kill anyone involved in the forceful dismantling of the statue. There is some intense characterization and worldbuiling happening in this short story, it’s as if Kayla walked out of a novel or a space opera series to let us in on one small even that would shape the rest of her life. Biblical Terror? shit just got real.

The Chabad of Innsmouth by Marsha Morman –  Since I just got the postcard from our local Chabad House about their upcoming Purim Party, I had to read this story first.  Peppered with Orthordox Jewish terms and phrases, this is the only story in the anthology that might require some google-ing or wikipedia-ing.  Menachen Schneuri is so thrilled to have his outreach assignment, that he doesn’t pay much attention to the history of the place or where the fundraising money came from.  They’ll build a home for his growing family, the Jewish immigrants are desperate for education of their lost religion, and the best part is that Innsmouth is within driving distance of larger Jewish communities where kosher foodstuffs can be bought.  His pregnant wife becomes ill shortly after they move there, and the silent people who attend his services don’t seem very interested in their prayerbooks. In his innocence, Menachem assumes that the Esoteric Order of Dagon is some kind of Catholic group. The tiny Jewish community of Innsmouth is in dire need of a Rabbi, but it’s not Torah study they are interested in. Never read any Lovecraft? This story will still creep the shit out of you. And if you know your Lovecraft, you’ll waver between the gleeful enjoyment of a well written Chthonic Mythos / Judaica mash-up and the terror of knowing that Menachem can’t possibly comprehend what’s happening around him.

I really do hope that Lieder continues with this anthology series.  it’s got everything I want – weird and creepy fiction mixed with religious mythology.

If you enjoyed this book review, stay tuned!  I’ll be posting an interview with editor Tim Lieder later this week.

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4 Responses to "King David and the Spiders From Mars"

Sounds suitably awesome. Biblical horror though, doesn’t that describe the entire book of Revelations?

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well yeah…… but this is like contemporary freaky horror. it’s got Space Marines!

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Well, that’s just captured my interest. I’ve read one or two religious themed bits of speculative fiction but have never seen a collection as such. I’m definitely looking into it. Thanks. :)

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If it’s still in print, see if you can get a copy of the first anthology in the series. The two volumes play well off of each other.

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