REVIEW: “Onward Christian Soldiers” by G. H. Finn

Review of G. H. Finn, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, in Myths, Monsters, and Mutations, edited by Jessica Augustsson (JayHenge Publications, 2017): 187-202. — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Four things I liked about the story from the very start: First, with a title like that, the story comes with its own soundtrack (hard for me not to read the story without a chorus of booming voices in my head singing out the song). Second, so much fantasy seems so afraid of interacting with religion in any form. Not this story! Third, prior to reading this story, I had no idea that Baring-Gould had also written a book about werewolves. The story’s epigraph was basically an informative footnote in itself, and you all know how much I love an informative footnote. Sometimes truth really is stranger than (or as strange as) fiction. Finally, like the narrator, “I am by nature neither a detective nor a hunter. At heart I am a scholar” (187), and I enjoy reading stories about scholars.

Vampire stories are, perhaps, the exception to the eschewing of religion in speculative fiction, because of the important role religious symbols play in vampire lore. The narrator makes the reasonable assumption that symbols that have power over vampires will also have power over werewolves, as being, presumably, demonic beasts of a similar origin. Unfortunately for him, the narrator is wrong. (Or—as the narrator himself worries—the symbols do have power, but he simply doesn’t have enough faith.)

As befits a story told by a scholar, the first part of the tale is academic in tone, a recitation of dates and places and names and facts. In the second half, the narration turns much more personal, and tells the story of how even a scholar can turn into a soldier for Christ.