When I reviewed Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't just another throwaway mash-upWhen I reviewed Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't just another throwaway mash-up. I remember writing that this would be a great book to help introduce the historical figure of Abraham Lincoln, one of America's most beloved Presidents to a youthful audience. If you stripped away the vampire hunting, you still had a pretty decent tale of the life of Abraham Lincoln, and with some guidance from a teacher (to let the students know what parts of the novel were historical fact and which were not...mostly the whole vampire hunting thing) , a class of young students could easily be enthralled by the story of Lincoln's life, which otherwise might be a snore-inducing few days in class.
That said, when I heard about Seth's upcoming novel "Unholy Night" and read the synopsis, I doubted this was a topic anyone could "mash-up" without offending people. When you bring religious holy texts into the realm of fiction, you are usually asking for trouble. Just ask Salman Rushdie, who probably still has a price on his head to this day. Seth Grahame-Smith surprised me yet again with not only his tactful handling of the mash-up, but with his story telling ability.
Let me pause here and fill you in on the story's premise with the official "product description"
From the author of the New York Times bestselling Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, comes UNHOLY NIGHT, the next evolution in dark historical revisionism. They're an iconic part of history's most celebrated birth. But what do we really know about the Three Kings of the Nativity, besides the fact that they followed a star to Bethlehem bearing strange gifts? The Bible has little to say about this enigmatic trio. But leave it to Seth Grahame-Smith, the brilliant and twisted mind behind Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to take a little mystery, bend a little history, and weave an epic tale.
In Grahame-Smith's telling, the so-called "Three Wise Men" are infamous thieves, led by the dark, murderous Balthazar. After a daring escape from Herod's prison, they stumble upon the famous manger and its newborn king. The last thing Balthazar needs is to be slowed down by young Joseph, Mary and their infant. But when Herod's men begin to slaughter the first born in Judea, he has no choice but to help them escape to Egypt.
It's the beginning of an adventure that will see them fight the last magical creatures of the Old Testament; cross paths with biblical figures like Pontius Pilate and John the Baptist; and finally deliver them to Egypt. It may just be the greatest story never told.
We begin the tale learning a bit about Balthezar, a.k.a. The Antioch Ghost, the greatest thief in all the land and a thorn in King Herod's side. Early on, Balthezar is captured and put in a dungeon to await his execution the next morning, there he meets two other "Wise Men" and much like the A-Team when presented with a maximum security facility, they "promptly escape". The chase is underway, as Herod and Ceasar send out the soldiers to find not only the three wise men, but a problem child, a newborn who some claim is the Messiah, the Prophet foretold in the holy books.
Balthezar and company meet up with a 15 year old girl (who has just given birth) and her husband, Joseph (sound familiar?) and is told by Joseph of how his wife Mary has never had sex, and has given birth to the child of God. Balthezar, being no man's fool laughs this off and tells Joseph he is a fool for believing her. As the story progresses, Balthezar quickly realizes that God is indeed protecting the little child. But will it be enough to save them all? The supernatural forces of evil are also in play. You'll have to read the book to find out how it all plays out, I won't spoil it. If you've read the Bible, you may have some idea as to the fates of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus but the wisemen are never mentioned after their initial encounter with Jesus and His Earthly parents, and their tale and the times between Biblical scripture's continuity are Seth Grahame-Smith's blank page to fill.
From beginning to end, this is an action-adventure. Seth Grahame-Smith does this all without offending Christians, without challenging, correcting or disputing a single word of scripture. It's sheer genius. Any Religious zealot who would denounce this book has either never read it or hasn't read the scripture that is part of it's source material. None of it is offensive, the dialogue of even such sensitive "characters" as Joseph and Mary is believable and stays true to the canon of the New Testament.
This was almost like having a street-level view of the first few days of the life of Christ, and being let in on a little unknown secret. The secret of how the Three Wise Men helped Mary, Joseph and their baby Jesus escape the wrath of Herod and Ceasar.
This book has been picked up by Warner Brothers for movie rights to the tune of 2 million dollars, a month or more before it's release, and it's definitely a movie I would watch, and a book I enjoyed reading.
Let me know what you think about it when you read it, as for me I was surprised by the respect shown to the New Testament and the crafty way Seth wrapped this action adventure around the birth of Jesus Christ without offending anyone.
I can't wait to see what he has in store for us next.
Unholy Night comes out in April 2012. Pre-order it now. :)
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I’ve seen many of Michael Moore’s documentaries, but I realized when starting to read his auto-biography “Here Comes Trouble” that I knew very littleI’ve seen many of Michael Moore’s documentaries, but I realized when starting to read his auto-biography “Here Comes Trouble” that I knew very little about the man himself, other than a vague knowledge of his political stances.
Well, there was that one time at the Toronto International Film Festival when I was attending the Borat Premiere (The Book Guy is also a movie guy). The projector broke down just as the film was a few minutes in. Larry Charles and Sascha Baron Cohen took to the stage and Sascha was really funny (at the time he was still promoting the movie and in full Borat costume and mustache). Borat said from the pulpit something about Canadian projector technology being very similar to that of Khazakstan. Then I noticed a big guy with an entourage had arrived at the balcony where I was seated and was heading for the projector room, passing by my seat. It was Michael Moore. The man had gone all the way up to the projector room with his entourage (who through reading this book I realize now must have been ex-special forces security guards) and was trying his darndest to fix the damn thing. Unfortunately a part had broken and Michael was unable to save the day, but the very fact that he tried made him okay in my books. That’s all I knew about Michael Moore really before reading his auto-biography.
To be honest, I was not expecting an entertaining read. Boy was I wrong.
Early on in the book, he discusses his appearance at the Academy Awards on March 23, 2003. Four nights earlier George W Bush had taken America into a war with Iraq. That night, Michael Moore won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. He had asked all the best documentary nominees to join him on stage if he won, and most of them did. As he took his statue he gave his now infamous speech:
" I’ve invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us. They are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction, yet we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have ficticious election results that elect a ficticious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for ficticious reasons. Whether it’s the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts; we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you! And anytime you’ve got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up! Thank you very much! I rememberd this Academy Awards and how quickly Michael Moore was booed off the stage. Michael goes on to tell about the security nightmare he suffered after this. I was amazed at the lengths people went to annoy him, to try to kill him and in a few cases attempt to blow up his house with him and his family in it. The media fueled the fire even more, some saying openly (like Glenn Beck did) that they wanted Michael Moore dead. The tales of his ex-special forces guards, his encounters with the public are a fascinating glimpse into a time when people still thought the Iraq War was going to last a few weeks, when people still thought the Iraq war was justified and when people still thought Michael Moore was wrong to say what he did at the Academy Awards. All that would change in years to come, but it was very interesting to get a glimpse into the life of Michael Moore for a few years after he made that speech."
Worse than the public’s reaction to his Academy Award speech was the reaction of the mainstream media and the corporations who own it. Disney Corporation went as far as to try to stop the release of his next film, Farenheit 911, which they failed to do. If nothing, this Michael Moore guy is persistent.
I found the auto-biography to be a little bit too preachy. Some of the chapters in this book could be renamed “The Story of Why Discriminating Against Homosexuals Is Bad”, “The Story of Why Discriminating Against Black People Is Bad”, “The Story Of How I Was Right When I Gave My Academy Award Speech”, “The Story of Why Abortions Should Be Legal” etc. It seems he may have thrown everything into this auto-biography plus the kitchen sink in order to flesh out his views on life. Some of the stories just seem like fables, to the point where I began to doubt they were actual events in his life. Regardless, the fable-like stories sprinkled throughout the book are entertaining, including his tale of protesting Reagan’s visit to a Nazi cemetery to lay a wreath and his phone conversation with John Lennon.
There was a time when people thought Michael Moore was absolutely nuts. Like when his newspaper chronicled how General Motors had used Government tax money to help it move jobs to Mexico. How General Motors had disassembled an entire assembly line and loaded it onto a train to be later shipped to China. “what on Earth would China do with an automobile assembly line? Michael Moore is NUTS!”. Those people don’t think of him as “crazy” any more.
The book ends with his telling of what drove him to documentary film making, and it’s quite the tale.
Think what you will of Michael Moore, this book which covers his life up until the opening of night of “Roger and Me”, his first film, is a very entertaining read. The timeline is perfect, as everyone knows a bit about Michael Moore the filmmaker. This book is truly his story up until that first movie hit the silver screen.
Kevin Rafferty, one of the cinematographers on the film’s mom is Barbara Bush’s sister. The Bush family requested a copy of “Roger and Me” to watch at a family gathering at Camp David. As George Bush junior sat in the group laughing his head off, I’m sure one of the people in the room, though admiring their cousin Kevin’s camera work must have been thinking to themselves about Michael Moore: Here Comes Trouble.
11/22/63, the title of this book is the date when President John F. Kennedy was assasinated in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald fired a shot from the11/22/63, the title of this book is the date when President John F. Kennedy was assasinated in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald fired a shot from the Texas Book Depository window that ended the President’s life.
A man named Al, living in 2011 discovers that in the pantry of his diner (which is of course, called “Al’s Diner”) is a hidden doorway of sorts. A doorway that goes back to a specific day in 1958. That doorway is pretty much the only “Science Fiction” in the entirety of the book. I would classify this one more as “Modified Historical Fiction” (as in, it’s Historical Fiction and Al from Al’s Diner wants to modify it) The doorway serves as a rather simple plot device, which allows for the actual story to take place unempided by science fiction technobabble and other nonsense. You will find no Science Fiction or Horror in this novel. Stephen King rarely writes about time travel, but he does it splendidly here.
Al finds that that the doorway always goes back to that specific day in 1958 and he returns again and again, eventually realizing that each time he makes a trip it resets any changes he may have made in the past. He decides that he wants to do one more trip to make a big change. He wants to enter 1958 and live in the past for 5 years until the 22nd of November, 1963 and it isn’t to watch the first episode ever of Doctor Who (which did air that night). He wants to stop the assassination of John F Kennedy.
Unfortunately for Al, he has developed cancer and knows for a fact he would not survive the 5 years he would have to wait in the past for 11/22/63 to come. This is where our main character, Jake Epping arrives. Jake is recruited by Al to do the deed that he cannot
The story follows Jake on his test journeys to the past, and his eventual 5 year mission to make changes to history, culminating on that day in November at the Texas Book Depository. Reading about Jake’s difficulties adapting to 1958 was a lot of fun. King spends quite a bit of time immersing both his main character Jake Epping and you, the Constant Reader in 1958 in those first initial trips.
Along the way, he falls in love with a girl, which of course complicates everything.
Will Jake be able to save John F Kennedy? How will the world be affected if he does? Will he stay in the 1960s with his newfound love? These questions and more I won’t answer here. You’ll have to read the book.
Stephen King wrote this one just after finishing Under The Dome, another book who’s size makes it a bullet-stopping 3 incher. I am amazed how this man can write such quality stuff in this quantity without a team of writers. He writes it all himself, unlike some of the top popular fiction writers of today.
It’s a huge book, but I somehow managed to read it in two sittings. Stephen King is back on top of his game. If you are a fan of Stephen King, this is a MUST purchase. If you’re interested in the Kennedy Assasination at all, again pick this one up. If you’re not a fan of science fiction, don’t worry and don’t let that monicker stop you. I just spent many hours in the late 50s and early 60s and enjoyed every minute of it. The master of horror shows here that he can also be the master of period pieces. Two thumbs and two big toes up for this one.
This book's street date is November 8th, 2011. If you're a Stephen King fan, don't walk... run to the book store or your iPad.