The Jesus Man: Keith Anthony Baird
Reviewed by D.K. Hundt
The Jesus Man, by Keith Anthony Baird, is his first novel written throughout 2016, initially published in April 2017, and self-published in June 2017. Inspired by such luminaries as H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. G. Wells, Baird aims to deliver stories in a classic vein, but with a contemporary slant in both style and content.
The Jesus Man is a post-apocalyptic narrative wherein an evil force in the year 2087 (fifty years after the unleashing of a Low-yield nuclear blast) begins its strategy to claim this broken territory in the Badlands as a piece in a long-waged celestial conflict; a place where the line between good and evil is often blurred or eviscerated entirely. Where does one find salvation in this new world – now plunged into darkness – within a sanctuary, entrenched in the desert, that is ruled by a brotherhood of elders who cling to the shattered remnants of their Christian faith? *Sorry, no spoilers*
The characters who live in this post-apocalyptic world dwell inside a multi-level Ark, where their class determines one’s tenancy within society, and not everyone agrees with this ideology, and who can blame them. There’s not a lot I can say about this novel without giving too much away, as the back cover reveals quite a bit already, so I will put my focus on what worked for me as the reader and what didn’t. I want to start by emphasizing that this is Baird’s first self-published novel, and I honestly feel that with a bit of editing, restructuring, character building, and more showing than telling, this novel could have been, hands down, an excellent read, and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way.
I can tell you that Baird has a unique writing style, Biblical and a bit Medieval, that I like, though at times it felt a little verbose in places. There are a couple of scenes in this book that I struggled to understand, and the reason for its placement wasn’t definitively clear even upon conclusion. Regarding the characters within the narrative, there was no one character that I can honestly say that stood out as the protagonist within the story. So, I found myself drawn towards the mysterious and malevolent antagonist, despite their evil doings, which is not the character I usually see myself riding shotgun with as I’m being driven further and further into an enticing tale of horror – but – what a ride it was! There are a couple of characters that I was quickly introduced to, by name only, and their purpose is still unknown to me. The area that I think Baird excels at the most is his ability to create vivid and frankly awesome horror scenes that had me cringing within, but, in such a delightful way.
Here’s one example:
“Prompted, [he] lifted the container with the tongs and poured a measure of its contents over both extremities, amid the almost inhuman screams of their victim. Shock momentarily took hold, and he went rigid on contact, but then the rising sear of pain began its unremitting frenzy. He convulsed and screamed in abject torment as the chemical set about its destruction of his thieving appendages…The smell was nauseous, but the torturers merely laughed at the pitiful wretch now sprawled across the table.”
Brutal? Yes. Awesome? Most definitely.
Here’s another excerpt from a different scene:
“He shuddered once, then was stilled. He went rigid then began to convulse and lost his grip on the vessel. It fell and chimed an ethereal falsetto as it hit the ground, which reverberated around his plundered keep. The veins in his temple and neck began to bulge and, as they turned a black hue, they raced across his face and converged upon his mouth, which was foaming around the spectre of a flicking black tongue….”
In closing, if my review of The Jesus Man sparks your interest, then by all means – take a bite – and delve into the creative mind of the author – you may be surprised by what you find lurking within.
It is 2037. Radicals in the Middle East have done the unthinkable. Low-yield nuclear weapons have been unleashed and the subsequent escalation of exchanges is enough to blacken the skies. In time, the world goes dark. Crops fail and economies begin the inevitable collapse. Countries close their borders, cease trading with one another and declare martial law to control their populations. As oil and power dwindle, the descent into chaos follows and the global meltdown unfolds. An entity arrives and this malevolent force begins its strategy to claim this broken territory as a piece in a long-waged celestial conflict. Moving half a century ahead, the story centres on a colony entrenched in the desert of the Four Corners region of the United States. It is a place of sanctuary, established in the post-war years and grown to be a stronghold in the badlands. In the wake of the entity’s global strategy, it stands as the sole remaining seat of the human race. Its citizens are ruled by a brotherhood of elders who cling to the shattered remnants of the Christian faith. A priest, favoured of the sect, begins to suffer nightmarish visions as evil turns its intent on the last bastion of mankind still to fall by its hand. Overcome, and subsequently possessed, the holy man becomes the vessel through which dark forces infiltrate the colony and lay low the last of men with a crushing malediction which will claim their souls, their homeworld and ultimately their Godhead for all time. Rich in descriptive content and paced throughout with a growing sense of doom, The Jesus Man delivers an unsurpassed vision of Hell on Earth.
D. K. Hundt is an American writer with a BA degree in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing contemporary fiction and horror/supernatural stories, she likes to spend her free time working as a volunteer in her community, being a minion for her cat Simon, warding off carnivorous spiders, and throwing herself into and around the dark alleyways of Stephen King novels in search of inspiration. D. K. resides in California with her husband, and she is currently working on a horror novel titled, Cheveyo–a story about a young boy who goes to live with his grandpa on a reservation, and soon discovers that the malevolent creatures that lurk in the Okanogan Forest aren’t the only deadly secret the locals are hiding.
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