This blog seeks to promote Christian speculative fiction and theological literacy based on the premise all of life is under God’s rule. As authors of Christian fiction and fantasy, we believe our writing comes under that rule. Therefore, as writers of Christian literature, we have an obligation not to entertain only, but more importantly, to convey clearly and unequivocally the truth of Holy Scripture.
Night of the Living Dead Christian, by Matt Mikalatos. March 2012 CSFF Blog Tour, Day 1
Matt Mikalatos, the author and
first person protagonist, has assumed the responsibility of neighborhood watch.
On the particular evening in which the story opens, Matt comes across Dr.
Culberton, the stereotypical mad scientist who, especially at this first
encounter, has a remarkable resemblance to Dr. Emmet Brown of Back to the Future. Culberton is
assisted by his android, The Hibbs 3000. Together they are in search of werewolves,
not to kill, necessarily, but to study and cure if possible. Their mission, in
the words of Culberton, “is both a spiritual and a scientific endeavor.”
Though I have never read Imaginary Jesus, what I have heard,
especially in the endorsements for that novel, Matt Mikalatos (the real one,
that is) is noted for a zany humor, which not only makes the reader laugh but
also facilitates the conveyance of the message. Obviously, I am not against
humor, I like to laugh as much as the next person, and because of that, I have
a fondness for some zany characters that some might raise an eyebrow at – Spongebob
Squarepants, for instance. Humor can do many things for a story, the most
important of which is to enhance its friendliness. In Night of the Living Dead, it often worked well, but sometimes it
got in the way. With such a humorous tone, I think a reader’s tendency is too
often to look for the next laugh and miss the message. A rereading of the book
might be necessary to scoop up what eludes the first time round. It also poses
several general questions about humor’s contribution: Is it natural? Does it
underscore? Does it detract? Can it be overbearing? Can it be monotonous?
But it is not the humor that
I am concerned about.
Monsters wend their way in
and out, representing loosely allegorical situations and phenomena of the way
Christianity is perceived and practiced. For me, and it may be because I’m
rather thick-headed when it comes to allegory, I did not make what probably
should have been obvious connections until the author was kind enough to tie
pieces together at the end. The fact that I wasn’t getting it as I was reading
was a little frustrating, but I knew that was mostly on me, and I was pretty
confident that the author suspected there were some boneheads like me out
there, and that he would help us out.
Regardless, it is not the allegory
that I am concerned about.
I did not miss the most
obvious connection, and that is the werewolf the story settles onto, and more
particularly the quest for a cure. The predicament of the werewolf was that he
became something that he could not help to become, something vile and violent
and offensive, which destroys the most intimate human bond he had – his
marriage. To be cured is something the werewolf wants to do, and at the same
time, does not want to do. That antinomy serves as a premise that underlies the
theology of the novel. The werewolf is the quintessential allegory of the book.
The message and theology of the story center on him. If you understand the
werewolf, you understand what the novel is trying to say about the gospel.
I think many are of the same
mind as Chris Fabry (Almost Heaven),
whose endorsing remark succinctly states what the reader of NLDC is faced with.
gets what the gospel is all about. It’s not about reform or spiritual
cosmetology. We’re dead, we’re monstrous, we’re enemies of God. But because of
his great mercy, he desires a relationship. He wants us to become like him”
I agree with the part about
our condition as dead and enemies of God, but the werewolf of Mr. Mikalatos’s
story is not really like that. The second part about what God desires is iffy
as well. How so? And what is at the root of the theology of Matt’s book? Those
are things I want to get into with tomorrow’s post.
Thanks to Saltriver (Tyndale
House Publishers) for kindly providing a copy of Night of the Living Dead
Christian for review on the March 2012 Christian Science Fiction and
Fantasy Blog Tour.