Night of the Living Dead Christian
A ferocious werewolf lives next-door to Matt Mikalatos. With a team of monsters at his side, Mikalatos tries to show his werewolf neighbor how Jesus can overcome the darkness in his heart.
Combining theology with comedy, Matt Mikalatos takes his readers on outlandish journeys. He started with My Imaginary Jesus, which offers a humorous look at the way we interact with our Savior. Night of the Living Dead Christian is his second novel. In both books, Mikalatos acts as the main character, though the events he puts himself in are fictional. This lends a sense to the stories that, no matter how unbelievable the plots become, they are based on truth.
Violence: Most of the violence in this book is cartoonish, describing only the bare minimum. Zombies bite and shove. One zombie is hit by a car. Someone is thrown through a window, but is unhurt. A group defends themselves against a werewolf attack; they lack silver bullets, instead using silver coins in slingshots and an aluminum baseball bat. Someone is smacked with the bat, but with no lasting injuries.
A werewolf brings home a dead chicken. At a different point, the werewolf tells of a time he was covered in blood after a hunt. The werewolf scratches someone. A vampire punches his girlfriend, then bites her. The main antagonist, a monster hunter, uses a crossbow to injure more than one monster. He stakes a vampire. A fight breaks out between a group of monsters and the monster hunter. One of the monsters is shot and blood splatters.
Language/Crude Humor: N/A
Sexual Content: A woman tells the story of how she became a vampire’s girlfriend. She wanted to wait until marriage to “make love,” but there were nights when she and her boyfriend would argue over that while they were half-clothed. Finally, he became so angry over it that he bit her. This is probably an analogy for rape, though nothing explicitly sexual about the bite is described.
Spiritual Content: This is a Christian book, so it is filled with allegories and spiritual lessons for all believers. One major theme is that though the church may try to change sinners into saints, only Jesus has the power to do so.
Other Negative Content: The plot touches on domestic abuse several times. A woman describes how she survived an abusive relationship with a vampire. She mentions some physical and emotional abuse: the vampire punches her, bites her, and belittles her. See the “Sexual Content” section above for more details.
The werewolf’s character arc hinges on how he is trying to get his family back. His wife left him after he hit her (we do not see the act “on stage,” but when the werewolf confesses). Verbal abuse is part of their relationship, but we get very brief glimpses of that. At one point, the wife brings the werewolf a gun with a silver bullet, indicating that she would like him to commit suicide.
Positive Content: If this book were only a funny story about monsters, it would not be worth the read. However, Mikalatos’s monsters give Christians a different kind of look at mankind’s depravity and God’s plan for saving us.
Matt Mikalatos lives in a normal neighborhood. At least, that’s what he believes, until he meets a mad scientist named Dr. Culbetron and a robot called the Hibbs 3000. The pair are searching for a werewolf in the neighborhood. Mikalatos is swept up in their search — literally — as Dr. Culbetron accidentally summons a mass of zombies and the group is nearly carried away by the swarm.
Dr. Culbetron and Hibbs want to catch the werewolf to find a (presumably scientific) way to cure him. However, their time is short. A monster hunter is also looking for the werewolf, with intent to kill.
As a concerned neighbor and adrenaline junkie, Mikalatos helps Culbetron and Hibbs track down the werewolf and create a plan to capture him. The plan fails. Instead of capturing the werewolf, they are captured by him.
The werewolf relates his sad story to the group. His temper led him to harm his wife and she recently left him, taking their daughter with her. He wants to change, but believes he is hopeless.
“I said a prayer, once upon a time,” my neighbor [the werewolf] said. “And yet… I am not a Christian. I want nothing to do with them.”
“Why do you keep saying you’re not a Christian?” I [Mikalatos] asked. “I don’t get it.”
“Because I’m a werewolf,” he snapped. “Because I am vicious and violent and uncontrollable. And there is no hope for me, no cure, no salvation. I believed once but I do not believe now, and I cannot be saved.”
This declaration goes against everything Mikalatos believes, so he sets out to prove the werewolf wrong. His journey involves a church full of singing zombies, a kind vampire, a Jesus robot, and many other imaginative figures.
Despite the ridiculous plot points, the story boils down to one important question: Can Jesus actually change every life, no matter how messed up and monstrous a person may be?
Now, that isn’t to say the story answers this question in a completely satisfying way. The final “deliverance” moment near the end feels like an ex-machina. Also, Mikalatos is more of an observer; we don’t see him grow or change the way a main character should. I was left wanting just a little more depth, a clearer picture of what real change looks like.
As is typical of most Christian fiction, this book can be on-the-nose when it deals with spiritual subjects. For example, the characters spend the better part of a chapter discussing the definition of what it means to be a Christian. It may be too heavy-handed for some. However, it can also be very creative in it’s delivery. Mikalatos is uniquely funny and because of that, the story is enjoyable.
The characters discuss different kinds of churches, even poking fun at several denominations. It may come off as either amusing or slightly offensive, depending on who you are. Mikalatos himself claims to be a “Generic Christian. Nondenominational.” Even so, he does not defend any particular church, focusing rather on the heart of Christianity: the Gospel.
Mikalatos draws interesting comparisons between real people and classic monsters. The man with the rage problem? A werewolf. The cultish church? Zombies. The clingy, abusive boyfriend? A vampire. The point is made: we are all monsters of one kind or another. We all need to be saved from ourselves.
Night of the Living Dead Christian delivers a fun and quirky look at the transformative power of the Gospel. It is an entertaining read for any Christian, but especially those familiar with monster lore.
[amazon text=Buy it from Amazon&template=carousel&asin=1414338805,1414364733]
+ Great humor
+ Draws solid parallels to spiritual life
+ Clever use of monster cliches
+ Fun and interesting characters
- A few slow parts
- Ending is a little unsatisfying