Night Of The Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos, unlike his debut novel My Imaginary Jesus which was fairly episodic, has a basic plot.
The Story. Matt Mikalatos is once again a character in his own book. This one, however, is really his neighbor’s story. Luther is a werewolf. He doesn’t want to be one because his wife left him, taking their daughter with her. He is desperate to find a way to stop being a werewolf, so Matt and a couple other buddies determine to help him. The story, then, is Luther’s quest for change.
Strengths. This short description of the story, or the one on the back cover, doesn’t really give an adequate representation of the book.
First, it is funny. Matt is a bit bumbling (which ends up playing a significant part in the story), and his humor, self-deprecating. This technique is disarming, allowing readers to sit back and chuckle without feeling defensive.
But this isn’t simply a romp with vampires and mad scientists and zombies popping in and out for no rhyme or reason. It’s actually a very authentic, incredibly sad and serious story. It’s very “real life.” Luther’s werewolfishness, as it turns out, is no laughing matter. He has every right to want to be rid of it for good. Except he doesn’t want to be rid of it.
And therein lies more truth and reality. This book is full of such insight, but also of answers. Yes, answers — the very thing that so many Christians think we ought not be giving in our stories. But Matt is faithful to Scripture, so his answers aren’t easy, nor are they quick. They paint the picture of the seed dying in the ground in order that it might begin to grow.
What’s more, this book, so full of Biblical teaching, is not preachy. In all the fifty-some articles I’ve read about this book during the CSFF Blog Tour, I don’t remember any saying the book was preachy. In fact just the opposite. How can a book be so overtly Christian and not be preachy? You’ll have to read it for yourself and see.
So what are the strengths? It’s easy to break down: it is funny and truthful.
Weaknesses. I don’t really have anything I’d call a weakness. Because Matt is doing something so different from other novels, it’s hard to evaluate it on the same terms.
I did realize as I read various tour posts that some people might be expecting a different book simply because it’s about monsters. This is not horror, not even close to horror. The monsters are a device. Will that disappoint some? Perhaps, but I think it will relieve a good many more, and it makes the book accessible to a wider audience.
At the same time, the back cover announces that the book is an allegory. Will that drive away readers expecting a fairly standard, predictable story? I hope not. It is most definitely a twenty-first century allegory, so it’s not like anything you’ve read before.
So the only weaknesses I can think of are the things people might expect, leading them to think the book is something it is not.
Recommendation. My first instinct was to say this is a must read for everyone, but I realize that’s not the case. Instead, I’ll amend my recommendation and say it’s a must read for those who want to think about spiritual things and who are willing to take a look in the mirror. Along the way you should plan to laugh a bit.
As an example, look at the front matter. Before the title page, as is typical of Christian fiction, there are a number of pages with endorsements, first of this book and then of Matt’s debut novel, Imaginary Jesus. The list of endorsers is impressive: Chris Fabry, radio host and bestselling author of Almost Heaven; Mike Duran, author of The Resurrection; Publishers Weekly; Relevant Magazine, CBA Retailers; Josh McDowell; Pete Wilson pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, and on and on. Finally, at the end of five pages of endorsements is this: “Adam Sadados, just some guy.”
Stay alert. When you read Night of the Living Dead Christian, you’ll find chuckle-inducing moments when you least expect them.
Originally posted at A Christian Worldview of Fiction
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.