Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Commandments

I was really hoping I could start this review with "The Bram Stoker Award wining collection...." but I can't. I can start with: The Bram Stoker Award Finalist collection The Commandments by Angeline Hawkes and published by Nocturne Press was a great read. Given that this is Easter weekend it's a great time to look at a book that deals with Christianity in a horror fashion.

The short version is that there are eleven stories in The Commandments. One for each of the Ten Commandments and a story that encompasses them. I believe writing this kind of story without offending the core beliefs of the religion is a challenge. I feel Angeline did a wonderful job of telling her story without offending those beliefs.

The encompassing story is about a church that obtains a very old copy of the Ten Commandments. Once the tablet arrives and is put on display in the church things take a turn for the worse for the members of the congregation.

Each of the ten stories focuses on one of the commandments and the punishment for those that chose to it. I try to stay spoiler free here so I'll just give a short teaser on each of the ten stories.

I - When a husband and wife have different religious beliefs it can really stress a marriage. Be very careful which god you chose to worship but be more careful about choosing who you marry. You never know how far they will go to make a point.
II - Craven images are not to be made or kept. Keeping one around the house can just kill your relationship.
III - Taking the Lord's name in vain can do more than make your mother mad. It might just cost you your life.
IV - When you are supposed to keep the Sabbath day holy it's not a good idea to do any work. You won't believe the things you will see and sadly you won't live long enough to tell anybody about them.
V - This story got my attention because it shows the victim isn't always the person ignoring the commandment. Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. Failing to keep this commandment will cause suffering not only for you but for your entire family.
VI - Thou Shalt Not Kill because if you do the punishment will be swift and horrific.
VII - The problem with having a mistress is she may not want you to go home to your wife. At least not all at once.
VIII - Gold. It's shiny, it's pretty and you can't wait to get your hands on it. If it's somebody else's gold though you might just want to keep your hands in your pockets.
IX - One lie leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another. It's a heavy price to pay when they all catch up to you.
X - What's yours is yours. Be happy with what you have because if you start wishing you had what your neighbor does you just might get it.

The encompassing story picks up again after the tenth commandment and wraps things up quite well.

While I do say I think Angeline did a wonderful job of not offending the core beliefs I must admit that knowing a woman wrote the way Angeline did about the tenth commandment can really put a man's mind on the seventh one. Of course knowing how the stories end will probably scare him right out of those thoughts.

There is enough horror variety in The Commandments for any horror fan. Unlike some books where you get one type of scare Angeline comes at you with ten different ones. This is a book you will enjoy.

Maybe next year at this time I'll be congratulating Angeline on wining the Stoker award. Her work deserves a win.

Big "Thank you!" to Angeline for allowing me to quote the following paragraphs from The Commandments.

How did they - how could they - Elias couldn't finish the thoughts. The skeletons had been piles of bones in the wood crate, but now they had somehow become connected again - whole - and moving as if alive before him in a clattering, creaking - but speechless movement.

Elias stood there petrified, rain soaking his shirt to his skin, molding it to his body. His hair was plastered flat on his head and water gushed over his nose and face.

One of the skeletons had retrieved the shovel and was studying it, while another one was curiously examining the golf cart. Elias stood there afraid to move; afraid to breathe, hoping the animated sets of bones would, perhaps, forget he was there; excecpt for the small detail of the rescuing-skeleton that was still tightly grasping his wrist.

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