Matt Mikalatos is clearly
insane an eccentric genius; his first book, Imaginary Jesus, remains The Book I Wish I Had Written, and based on that I opened this book expecting something like a paperback Shaun of The Dead with a little spiritual insight mixed in for good measure. And, apart from the fact that it is less about zombies than it is about a mad scientist (actually, I would have thought that the British would be more likely to use the term eccentric genius, but what do I know?), a spiritually interested werewolf, the worst robot of all time, and our Generic Christian hero, Matt Mikalatos himself, that’s almost what it is. There are zombies; they belong to a church that wants to remove the brains of its congregation. One of them is even adopted by story Matt – he’s called Robert, and the fact that author Matt has the nerve to just go with the obvious gags like that only makes me love this book even more.
Culbetron snickered. “He just said ‘at stake’ to a vampire. Hee hee hee.”
More Christian books should embrace childlike humour. Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child and all that. Also the phrase ‘It’s clobbering time!’ That should be in more Christian books too.
So far, so Shaun of the Dead. But what of the spiritual insight? Well, drawing the parallels between the common stumbling blocks to a truly transformed life and B-movie monsters works so well that it had to be done sooner or later. It may well have been done before, but that doesn’t matter because Matt Mikalatos does it so well. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he has a degree in Stealth Theology or something, because he just slips those little nuggets of truth in among the silliness.
Vampires, werewolves, zombies, mummies – they can all be cured. If they want it badly enough.
And that is one of the great things about this book. In amongst the monsters and the silly jokes and all the other mayhem, suddenly something will just jump off the page and you will be face to face with your own dark side. Take a quick glance at the amazon reviews for the book, and you’ll see words like ‘convicting’ come up almost as much as ones like ‘hilarious’. The book doesn’t pretend that there is an easy cure to any of our monstrosities – as Lara the vampire says, ‘It’s simple, but it’s not easy.’
For me personally, I think this book works because the author is talking my language. He understands my life, my sense of humour, my enjoyment of things geeky, my parental frustration…
the kids were probably doing the afternoon snack ritual, which involves the children begging for snacks, rejecting whatever is offered to them, and then complaining about their day until they finally take the offered snack and are given sufficient energy not to be upset about all of life anymore. My presence mostly just adds an extra step, the part where I yell at them to stop being so cranky and eat something…
So, all that being said, the big question is: had Matt Mikalatos managed to live up to the expectations set by his debut novel? Well, I was laughing out loud by the end of page two, but on the whole I didn’t do that quite as much as I did while reading Imaginary Jesus. What I did do a lot of though, was think. And I had a whole lot of fun while doing it. So, yes, definitely, Night of the Living Dead Christian is every bit as essential a read as Imaginary Jesus is.
Full disclosure: this is basically an edited version of a review I posted in March 2012, fresh from first reading it. A couple of days after posting the review I shared a paragraph that really jumped out and bit me in the neck; there are plenty of them, snippets of dialogue that contain real thought-provoking truth. As a writer, moments like these serve to remind me of the power that stories can have – even silly stories about vampires and zombies. As a flawed and arguably monstrous human being, this particular moment was really a little closer to home than it had any right to be; this is Lara, the reformed vampire, relating what she learned from a pastor:
He showed me the fountain, but I’m still drinking from it. There’s a well inside of me, but sometimes I want a drink that’s faster, easier, and I take what I can get. There’s a part of me that’s not a vampire anymore, and there’s this other part that still wants to be, sometimes. So every day I have to get a little sunshine, because sunlight doesn’t kill vampires, it just burns the vampire out and leaves the human stronger. But until all the work is done I’m a vampire with a tan.
I think I need to be less afraid of the sunlight.
And I think you need to download this book – do it now, it’s free until October 31st. Zero pennies, zero excuses!