Max Booth III had a subtle touch in his selections and placement for this anthology. I rarely focus on the editor when reviewing anthologies, but I believe Booth has shown great insight and finesse in his construction of this anthology. It is not so much that the stories follow an exact theme or even an exact tone. This anthology has a spirit or a "bone level" connection that is not apparent on the surface. There is level of storytelling in each of these tales that brings this anthology to a height beyond its apparent potential.
The title would lead one to believe the stories are more roughshod than they are. There is a Jesus story, but no zombie Jesuses. The theme for the anthology would seem to prescribe a particular niche of genre or sub genre work. These stories are fuller than one might expect or should expect from most anthologies.
These are literary level stories. This is good, alternate history told by authors that did more than just gather their key facts from Wikipedia before banging out a story. These stories use horror as a technique for their storytelling. Horror in these tellings is not a genre crutch used to prop up an idea. These are complete tales that pay respect to alternate history, to horror, and to readers. Even in the bolder tales, there is a literary patience in the writing. These writers composed these tales with a fine, artistic touch and Booth chose them with purpose in mind.
The anthology leads off with "Damned" by Cody R. Langille. The Titanic misses the ice berg, but the world will soon wish it hadn't because something has escaped.
T Fox Dunham contributed "The Hunger Beneath the Sea." Fox is an accomplished writer with a broad range of work. He is no stranger to World War II tales and both his knowledge and experience deliver in this story as well. He has a fascinating use of the monster and the course of the war in this story. It will not disappoint.
More World War II reimaginings come in the very next story "Saving Cloud Girl" by Eric J. Hildeman. I was worried about the comparison to the previous story especially readings these back to back. I see what the editor was doing with this placement. The differences in these two, subsequent tales accentuates both and adds to the anthology. I'm not going to reveal any plot points as this story is unlike any World War II fiction I've ever read for a number of reasons.
The anthology does have its fair share of World War II stories and Civil war stories. In one case, both make an appearance in the same story. These two time periods are common backdrops of alternate history. These are clear points of interest to the target audience. All of the World War stories and Civil War tales deliver in this anthology.
"Culture Sculptor" by Charlie Fish shows that conspiracies go deeper and connect more solidly than we ever knew. Sometimes knowing the whole truth is worse.
"Partners" by Ian Welke shows that Casual Friday pales in comparison to LSD Day at the office. There are greater sacrifices at work and you don't know the half of it.
E.F. Schraeder contributed "The Hopeful Doctor" to help us all finally realize that Jack the Ripper was misunderstood by history.
Christian A. Larsen is an author to watch. I have read a number of his short stories and even an early draft of a novel. Some of his greatest works of short fiction involve a powerful infusion of history. I was excited to read his contribution. "Sic Semper Versipellis" exceeded my expectations again. It is a good mystery and it is well-ended.
"Auction" by James Hoch has vivid description and makes strong statements in the telling. It is unapologetic in its irreverence. It is a very different take on race, super or otherwise, and on emancipation delayed.
"The Darwin Line" by James Ciscell is a journal story that explores hidden beasts in the cold wastes of the Soviet Union. It is not my favorite story, but it was interesting to read and it was worthy of the anthology.
"Victoria Victoria" by K.M. Indovina is brilliant and unique. It is a perfect match of predator, prey, and moral overreach.
"Those That Knock" by Morgan Knight uses a different moment from history than most alternate tales follow. It is a good, apocalyptic tale and builds terror.
Kevin James Breaux's contribution follows the fate of the USS Indianapolis through a found journal. This story requires a little patience. Those familiar with the basis of this particular incident might feel at first that they are reading a retelling of the base story, but it takes a bit of a turn in the later entries.
"Avoid Seeing the Mouse" by James A. Dorr is an unusual blend of modern and ancient history. And just when we thought we were safe fromY2K.
Barrie Darke did something quite spectacular with "The Golgotha Fight Song." He gave Zombie Jesus a little Jesus, but he told an irreverent concept with reverence to good storytelling. Christians do believe that Jesus will come a second time as a warrior. Darke just delivered the story that tells of it. One risk of great foes meeting on the battle field with modern weapons is trench warfare. This unusual story is executed with a powerful decision on how the portray the characters and how to articulate a plot. It is a standout among some very strong stories.
Booth makes a bold choice for a closer to this anthology with "Legends" by Kristopher Triana. Immediately, the reader feels the author is telling a story he knows. Heroes and death are always a good match. In this case, that is sometimes true more than once.
Take the time to read the biographies after you enjoy Zombie Jesus and Other True Stories for yourself. Look for other work from these talented authors that I'm sure you will enjoy. This anthology is well compiled. The stories stand up alone and together. This anthology serves as a testament of what is possible in the current market of publishers such as Dark Moon Books and rising authors like the ones represented by these masterful stories.