Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Review: Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I did not receive a free copy of this book from the publisher, because Matt Mikalatos' last book, Imaginary Jesus, was so staggeringly awesome there was no way this would escape my wish list. And by virtue of having a birthday earlier this month, I managed to get a copy in time to review it for the tour and not even deprive Matt of his hard-earned royalties. Yay me!

Anyway, the book. Given the fact that Matt Mikalatos is clearly insane an eccentric genius, 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 just make 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...
And as if knowing that part of my day so intimately wasn't enough, at the end of the story Matt (or, arguably, Krista) has a baby girl whose middle name is Hope...

So, all that being said, the big question is: had the 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.

But don't take my word for it, go and ask these people (some of whom may have less in common with the author to start with).
Gillian Adams Julie Bihn Red Bissell Thomas Clayton Booher Thomas Fletcher Booher Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Morgan L. Busse Theresa Dunlap Amber French Tori Greene Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Janeen Ippolito Becky Jesse Jason Joyner Carol Keen Leighton Shannon McDermott Rebecca LuElla Miller Nissa Joan Nienhuis John W. Otte Crista Richey Sarah Sawyer Chawna Schroeder Rachel Starr Thomson Steve Trower Fred Warren Shane Werlinger Nicole White Dave Wilson


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Outstanding review, Steve. So glad you were able to participate, even though I know you must be incredibly busy with your family.

As soon as I read your first sentence, I thought, OH, these two guys have exactly the same sense of humor! But I think we all like to laugh, and I had those out loud moments too. Yes, this book over all was more thought-provoking even than Imaginary Jesus, but Matt's skill at combining his humor and his spiritual insights is superb.


Julie Bihn said...

"Also the phrase 'It's clobbering time!' That should be in more Christian books too." ROTFL. Thanks for the laugh.

Matt Mikalatos said...

Steve, thanks for the great review. And for buying the book! A fan!

Also, thank you for your gracious "What do I know?" comment about the British preferring mad scientist to eccentric genius, thereby making it look as if I know more about the Queen's English than I actually do, or as if I had done some research into such terminology.

I'm thrilled you liked it. Thanks again for the great review.


Bruce Hennigan said...

I'm STILL thinking about the book. I loved the humor. It was my kind of weird off the wall humor. But, the hard stuff was so great! Good review. Love the songs.

UKSteve said...

Thanks all for stopping and commenting... and yes Matt, you can definitely consider me a fan!

Janeen Ippolito said...

I agree, Mikalatos has my kind of humor as well! It's a bit like Oscar Wilde: treat “all trivial things very seriously and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality.”
Or, a bucketful of geekiness makes the stealth theology go down?
Good thoughts!