I usually don’t go for books about zombies, vampires and werewolves or any other “sci-fi/fantasy” book for that matter. But having read Matt Mikalatos’ first book Imaginary Jesus and knowing how completely off the wall that one was, I knew I had to give Night of the Living Dead Christians a shot. We join Mikalatos on his one-man Neighborhood Watch tour and are soon up to our eyeballs in wacky encounters with the undead of various shapes and sizes. Chief among them are his one of neighbors, Luther Martin, who has the misfortune to be a werewolf. Determined to help Martin find a cure for this malady, Mikalatos and a few other sidekicks try various methods, including attending a church that ends up being full of brainless zombies. The journey is hilarious and, when you least expect it, thought-provoking. Interspersed between the off-kilter narrative are more heady chapters written by “Martin” as he contemplates his life as a werewolf and his journey through the various methods of losing his werewolfishness.
Although the narration is very quirky and often downright weird, the meaning of the book is surprisingly clear and well thought out. As the book’s subtitle indicates, Night of the Living Dead Christian is about being transformed or more clearly perhaps, what it doesn’t mean. The zombie Christians we meet along the way show the absurdities of those who blindly follow some Christian leader’s teachings without a second thought (giving a whole new meaning to “Brains! Brains! We want your brains!”) Then there are the vampires, those who “steal the life force of others to increase their own longevity…to increase their own quality of life.” And then there is the guy relentlessly hunting down these monsters, who is eventually revealed to be the embodiment of the law.
Through these characters, Mikalatos shows many of the follies bound up in the heart of a man and where true freedom is found. Perhaps the most poignant moment in the book comes toward the end. (SPOILER ALERT) Martin eventually finds freedom from being a werewolf, but not everything ends up perfectly in his life. One night, he is found out in the rain, with his old wolf skin tied on with string. “He thought that everything would be wonderful when he was born again, but he was wrong.” (p.234) There is pain and a recognition of the struggle against the old flesh. But as Mikalatos so beautifully points out, “It’s not all wonderful. It’s worth it, but it’s not wonderful.” (p.234)
Night of the Living Dead Christian is a fast read, but one that is chock full of thought-provoking situations. I would recommend it not so much because of the zombie genre, but for the insightful glance into a struggle for transformation that should be in every Christian. (5/5 stars)
(Thanks to Tyndale House for providing a review copy of this book.)