Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Deconstruction: Night of the Living Dead Christian 1

In which we get started...

Welcome to the detailed (and, unfortunately, spoiler-rich) review of Night of the Living Dead Christian. For a briefer review that doesn't give anything away, read the main review. If you're curious, here's a discussion of why I'm doing this.

This is a rather long bit of reaction, so I'm breaking it up into sections. Hopefully that will allow for more bite-sized discussions. I'm also tempted to create a cast list, just to avoid confusion; we'll see if that's needed or not. Meanwhile, if you're ready and willing to proceed, join us below the cut:

I hate to open with a complaint, but this concerns a basic authorial decision and I think it was ill-chosen. The name of the primary narrator is Matt Mikalatos. That is also the name of the author. This is distracting. It pulls my attention out of the story, and not in a good way. Would it be equally distracting to someone who hadn't been corresponding with the author over in the comments on another blog? I don't know, but I think it easily could be. And (as we'll see later), I think the reader is very much meant to be aware of it. (Later note: there’s a Q & A with the author in the back of the book, in which he discusses his reasons for doing that, and the device’s literary precedents. It’s pretty clear that how he intended it and how it came across to me have almost nothing in common.)

Unfortunately, that isn't the only difficulty I had with the book.

The book opens with an introduction (written, like everything else, in the first person) by "a concerned citizen and friend of the author" named Luther. Now, Luther is a character in the book, and says so in the introduction... but we don't actually meet him as a named character in the main narrative until chapter six (around the 23% mark on my Kindle). So having him soliloquize on how monsters really do exist, we just don't like to admit it... well, it doesn't do much to set up the story that follows - at least, not as a story. Bear in mind that this is also a piece of Christian fiction, so presumably it's intended to have an underlying didactic message. I think Luther's introduction is meant to help with that, rather than with the story per se. It's also possible that need for (and the purpose of) this sort of introduction was simply lost on me.

Generally, though, I think that you shouldn't have to explain your metaphors before you even start to introduce them, and I would have been perfectly happy (and probably less confused) if I'd skipped the introduction and gone straight into the story.


  1. One, I somehow did not know that we can do "below the cut" on blogger. This is good information to have.

    Two, I don't have much to add here. When the later conversation about why I had "me" as the narrator comes up I can share some more about that, but honestly I can see the point of why it might distract and detract for some people.

    As for Luther's intro... I don't recall all the details of why I ended up doing that, actually. I vaguely remember that my editor thought that an introduction of some sort might be good, but the whole Luther intro was my idea. I think she wanted a more straightforward intro-type thing at first. Anyway, I know one piece is that when I added Luther's short narrations later in the process, I though to would be jarring to have them come out of nowhere. So I gave him one up front. And I did like the "There are monsters" followed by the chapter one "there are no monsters." But I guess saying you like your own writing is sort of like serving someone a meal, having them hate it and then you saying, "Well, I thought it tasted great." Ha ha ha.

  2. "Anyway, I know one piece is that when I added Luther's short narrations later in the process, I though to would be jarring to have them come out of nowhere."

    That does make sense, though in general I think they're set up well enough to do without the introduction. I mean, they're called "interludes," and generally they have "...from the werewolf" somewhere in the title.

    As you'll see later, I ran aground a bit on the first one, but honestly I think that was less the format or the setup (with the dueling first person narrators), and more the way that Luther just launches into his thoughts.

    And for the record, I did not hate your meal. It's just that I would have fixed it with more onions and no pickles.

  3. That makes sense. I actually had one reviewer say they wish those interludes had been set off more... maybe being in another font. I wrote her back and said, "They ARE in another font..." She thought that was funny.

    One of the challenges for me in this whole thing (and I think it shows clearly in places) is wrestling with who my precise audience is for the book. I'd like it to be a book that is accessible to people with little or no theological background or interest, and at the same time this is a book that is with a Christian publisher and is going to be largely targeted at that audience. One of the risks of trying to juggle things to make it accessible to all the different crowds (or reading levels, or genere preferences, or whatever) is that you can end up ticking everyone off and making no one happy.

    Which, actually, will come up later I'm sure in the self-referential bits... I originally had a great deal of self-deprecating humor, which is common in farce, but it really didn't sit well with my publisher to have me making fun of my first book. And, to their credit, the mainstream Christian audience doesn't typically read much farce or satire and it very likely would have gone over a lot of readers' heads. That was one of the major edits I really agonized over, though.

    "More onions and no pickles." I will write that down for the next book.


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