Matt Mikalatos is such an imaginative, creative writer that it's a wonder any Christian publisher dared touch the manuscript for this book. Not that Christian publishers don't publish imaginative and creative writers, but really --- NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD CHRISTIAN? With a title like that, you know the book isn't likely to win friends and influence people in a lot of churches and bookstores. But there are those walking among us in our churches and other Christian hangouts who observe our antics and find them uproariously funny. Mikalatos is one such observer, and he's the best kind to comment on his observations, because wherever we as Christians have gone and whatever we have done, he has also been there and done that.
"NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD CHRISTIAN is an in-your-face, hilarious but sobering look at the Christian community and the individual lives that are desperately in need of transformation."
Remember, this is the author who brought us IMAGINARY JESUS, in which the protagonist (the author) travels through time and geography in his quest to find the real Jesus to replace the fake one he's carried around in his head all his life. This time out, that book's protagonist (remember? the author) steps aside and lets a werewolf take center stage. The werewolf, naturally named Luther Ann Martin, is Matt's neighbor, and Matt, being somewhat accustomed to living amid monsters, decides it's time to help his neighbor overcome his werewolfness (or lycanthropy, for the Greek scholars among us). However, he is beset at every turn by the other monsters living in the neighborhood, particularly the hordes of zombies whose influential leader --- in other words, their pastor --- and fellow Christians have eaten their brains right out of their skulls. Yes, the zombies are pretty much lobotomized Christians who want to make you just like them. They say they've been reborn into a new, resurrected life, but it looks more like the life of the undead --- not exactly vibrant and truly alive.
Whew! Okay, hats off to the Christian acquisitions editors who kept reading at this point.
Like any good monster tale, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD CHRISTIAN also features a mad scientist and his assistant, an android, who team up with Matt --- the neighborhood watch representative --- in his quest to help Luther.
In several intermissions between chapters, Luther gets to have his say, revealing that he grew up in the church and is the son of a pastor who placed such extreme demands on him that he could never measure up. You can hear his heart cry in his rage against those who have helped create the monster he has become. He wants to change but has no idea how.
Then there's Lara, a nominal Christian and a friend of Matt's from high school. She also lives in the neighborhood (word of advice: you may not want to buy a house here) and is a vampire whose life was sucked out of her in an abusive relationship. She lives to suck the life out of others.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD CHRISTIAN is an in-your-face, hilarious but sobering look at the Christian community and the individual lives that are desperately in need of transformation. Mikalatos has a rare gift for creating bizarre stories and then holding a mirror up to his readers so they can see themselves in those stories, whether they want to or not. Seriously, how many of us want to see ourselves as monsters --- or see ourselves as the monsters we really are? But Mikalatos doesn't leave us there, staring at our hideous reflection; he holds the mirror up just long enough for us to recognize our need to be completely transformed into the image of God, the only one that will force the monsters to flee.
This one is for readers who are open-minded and eager to be transformed no matter what it takes, and who appreciate an outrageous sense of humor. Oh, and for all the zombie-, vampire-, werewolf-, android- and mad-scientist lovers who also roam the earth.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on November 10, 2011