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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