Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CSFF Blog Tour - Review - Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos

Book:  Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos

This is Julie again. I have a review system you may (or may not) want to look at to see HOW I come up with my ratings and what I rate on.

Ridiculously simplified summary: In the modern-day northwest US, a ragtag crew of misfits helps a werewolf overcome his dark inner nature through Christ. On the way, they learn to face the monsters in themselves.

Content: I hadn't read Mikalatos' book My Imaginary Jesus before this one, though there are several references to the narrator being the author of that book.

This is touted as a "ferociously funny quest to discover what it means to be fully transformed." Blogger Shane Werlinger described the book as "humorous," which is exactly the word I'd use. It made me smile in quite a few spots but only made me actually laugh a few times.

As you'll see tomorrow, it's not terribly easy to make me laugh. Actually, I never read "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" but I remember my high school best friend would always quote lines from it and try to make me laugh. The only time it worked was when she said a line but substituted "Arby's" for a restaurant that wasn't local (the original line would not have made me laugh). Honestly, you can get enough reading the first few pages on Amazon to know how funny you'll find it.


Compelling: 8 out of 10. It read fine; I cared enough to want to know what would happen to the characters. For the most part, the religious aspects meshed with the story, though I could have done without some of the religious debate (at the start I was outright bored by the sections written by Luther). Even as a Christian, I would have rather see less arguing about trivialities like which Bible to choose. (OK, that part was a little funny because I really hate a certain translation/paraphrase, but it's the only example I could think of! Anyway, that's a minor point.)

Characters: 7 out of 10. Again, a lot of the humor comes from characters acting stupid, which can make it a little hard for me to like them. (I think of Michael Scott on The Office; sometimes he's stupid-funny and sometimes he's just stupid.) Matt (the character, as distinguished from Mikalatos the author) was absolutely bumbling throughout, and a few of the characters weren't that well-defined, instead flexing to fit into whatever joke they were needed for. You could say the same about most sitcom characters, though, so fair enough.

As a woman, I was a little disappointed that the only female characters to speak of were a vampire--by far one of the coolest/best characters, but a minor one--and Matt's wife, who spends most of her time humoring Matt and possibly making snacks. (Yes, there is a conversation where a group of 4 or 5 men literally cannot meet at anyone's house because there is no woman in those houses to make them snacks. I'm sure a lot of people found that hilarious. But my dad--who was the stay-at-home parent and did most the cooking--has gotten so tired of portrayals of stupid men in sitcoms, I think that's rubbed off on me a bit.)

That said, Luther and Lara in particular were good characters, and the character TYPES who were lampooned (and in particular the churchgoing zombies) had a lot of truth to them.

Writing/editing: 8 out of 10. I only noticed a couple continuity errors (I believe there is one on Amazon's preview, with the flashlight getting dropped, then soon after, being gripped tightly). If there were other issues later on, I missed them because I was caught up in the story. As in almost all comedies, sometimes the jokes trump the storyline. Some of the jokes were notably stupid/bad....but if that notably stupid/bad joke makes you smile (or in at least one case, laugh out loud), does that make it a good joke? Yeah, probably.

To me, the ending read almost like a modern short story, where the whole world changes profoundly. That isn't my favorite thing, but others might love it. Fortunately, the bonus content at the end of the book (which I touched on yesterday) brought back the light tone I'd missed from the beginning of the book.

Plausibility/believability: 3 out of 5. Yeah, this is an almost useless category for a book full of zombies. Still, I basically bought the world as it was, even when the characters were acting fairly insane.

What I really struggled with was that the narrator (Matt) portrays himself as generally silly/stupid/inept throughout the book. (His werewolf friend briefly assumes that Matt has some sort of spiritual knowledge based on his book Imaginary Jesus, which I'll touch on tomorrow.) Yet at the end, Matt is the one giving lectures on Christianity. There are hints of his spirituality throughout the book, but I just couldn't believe this same character who refers to his Toyota Corolla as his "Secret Lair" would attend, much less enjoy, a classical music concert and use it as a metaphor for Christianity.

I am almost certain Mikalatos the author can be both silly and serious, probably exactly as outlined above. But fiction, oddly, has to be more believable than real life. I think the challenge comes from the book relying on Matt's silliness for the humor, and then relying on Matt to deliver the spiritual message, when he wasn't even the character who changed in this book. I'm not certain there would be any way to write that better, though....if Matt had been serious throughout, I don't think I would have enjoyed the book.

Positive: 4 out of 5. There isn't a perfectly happy ending, and I don't feel like the book answered all the questions brought up about Christianity. But overall it shows that Christ can overcome all things.

Gut reaction: 3 out of 5. It was LOTS of fun to read a Christian book with werewolves and vampires. I love when books make me smile and this one did. It was a good read.

Bonus points: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for: Fans of comics/monsters coupled with extreme silliness.

Probably not good for: People who are offended by vampires/werewolves/zombies. (I say this because some people hate seeing any sort of monsters/supernatural elements in stories, even if they are the bad guys....though in fairness, those people probably should not be reading this blog!)

Total Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars

Here are the other participants in the CSFF Blog Tour.  Check them out!

Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
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
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
John W. Otte
Crista Richey
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Shane Werlinger
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

*I received a copy of this book free from Tyndale in exchange for this review.*


  1. Hey Julie,
    I like your rating system, very thorough :)

  2. I second that, your review system is very well organized. I think I hate you. ;)

  3. Thanks, Morgan! And thanks, Nissa...I think. :) My co-author Maggie contributed a couple of the rating categories. After writing some reviews on my personal blog I realized that is not going to work when people might actually be reading them, such as here. :#/

    If it makes you feel any better, EVERYTHING about the rating system goes terribly wrong tomorrow with "My Imaginary Jesus." Should be fun to watch!

  4. Good thoughts! I appreciate your thoroughness and reasoning. Actually, I like the "bumbling" aspects of Mike throughout the book. For me it adds humility to the character. Having him get a bit preachy at the end did seem awkward (as I'll note in my third post tomorrow), but in general I found it funny and refreshing.

  5. Oh, I agree that I like bumbling Matt here, Janeen, absolutely. I don't think the book would have been amusing without him. The disconnect for me comes when bumbling Matt changes to philosopher Matt. I didn't see it as being "preachy" as much as a 180 for the character. OK, probably not extreme as a 180. At least a 90, though. Anyway, I'm not sure how the book could have worked if it Matt hadn't been the one to tie it up, though.

  6. That's why Relevant magazine called my books "C.S. Lewis meets Monty Python." One minute it's all "transubstantiation" and "hypostatic union" and then out of nowhere someone is poking someone else in the eyes and doing a silly walk. :)

  7. Like the others, I'm impressed at your in-depth rating system. :) I appreciated that it didn't have a perfectly happy ending. It showed the way Christ transforms, which isn't always easy, but always good.

  8. Julie, though I disagreed with what I think was errant theology that underlies the inner cogitations of the werewolf, I thought they were well-written and thought-provoking. Mr. Mikalatos is a good writer and some of his writing approached the superlative.

  9. Thanks, everyone! Sarah, I am a happy-ending lover (if I want a not-happy ending, I might as well read non-fiction). But I know a lot of people prefer a more realistic ending!

    Thomas, I have a hard time appreciating good writing when I disagree with a major point in a book...hence the need for a rating system. LOL


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