Thursday, November 3, 2011

Deconstruction: Night of the Living Dead Christian 2

In which we introduce the monsters...

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. So, now that you've all been fairly warned, we'll pick up the deconstruction after the jump:

After the introduction, we run through the first five chapters, in which our narrator (who happens to be the founding member - and, for that matter, the only member - of his neighborhood watch) meets the neighborhood Mad Scientist, Dr. Daniel Culbetron, and his robotic (excuse me, "android") assistant, the Hibbs 3000. They are testing a device that's supposed to drive out werewolves, and which - when they test it - actually brings out every single monster in the neighborhood.

This is where the author is at his strongest: most of what follows is slapstick humor, with comical misunderstandings, chases, pratfalls, people taking shelter in wholly insufficient places, and monsters that don't behave quite the way you'd expect. When I say that a lot of this book is funny, this is precisely the type of passage I’m talking about.

This section also introduces the three major categories of monster - at least in passing. The first group are zombies, who go around attaching flyers to doors and apparently all attend the same church; so they're pretty obviously a metaphor for a certain sort of Christian. The second, and main focus of the book, is the werewolf: a man who turns furry and violent when he's angry. This turns out to be one of the narrator's neighbors - and, in a flashback sequence (or "prologue" - but mind you, it's also chapter 2), we find that narrator-Matt met this neighbor a week earlier.

At that time, the werewolf's wife was leaving him, and taking their daughter with her. This is Luther - the same Luther who wrote the introduction - but it's easy to get confused since the werewolf's name is not given at this point, and in fact there's no way for the reader to be certain it's even the same house until a bit later. (Later note: I’m wondering if this section might have worked better if it had been written from Luther’s perspective, with or without Narrator-Matt present as a witness.)

The third sort of monster is the vampire, who doesn't get much explanation just yet - narrator-Matt's neighbor and High School Chum Lara pops out just in time to scare the zombies away, wearing a long black cape and showing her fangs, but narrator-Matt blithely assumes that she's just trying out a Halloween costume a week early.

There is also a werewolf hunter named Borut, who appears to be bankrolling the Mad Scientist - which seems a little contrived, since the Mad Scientist wants to capture the werewolf for research, while the hunter wants to put a silver-headed arrow into its heart. How on Earth did these to get into some sort of business arrangement?

However they managed it, there’s a pretty clear conflict of interests. This leads to an immediate parting of ways between the werewolf hunter Borut, who takes off in pursuit of the werewolf, and Culbetron and the Hibbs 3000, who go off with Narrator-Matt to devise a way to capture the werewolf.

I’m skipping over a lot of the byplay here, but this is another section where the book is concentrating mainly on being funny, and doing very well at it. There’s a certain amount of wrangling over who should be in charge, and a digression by Narrator-Matt on the subject of biological oddities, in which he reveals that he has an extra half-vertebra in his spine.

The three of them do, eventually, come up with a plan. And then they try to implement it... which goes completely awry, and ends with Narrator-Matt captured and at the mercy of the werewolf.


  1. I like your idea of writing the "prologue" from Luther's perspective. It might have been better to use it as a an actual prologue, in his voice, rather than the intro letter. It would have been worth trying, at least. It was, at one point, an actual prologue. But once I thought of using chapter 2 as the prologue I just couldn't pass it up. I knew most people probably wouldn't even get it, but it made me laugh. In fact, at one point I planned to have about ten prologues spread throughout the book and some "negative" chapters (i.e. Chapter -1) but it was too weird and ridiculous and I couldn't pull it off so that it was anything more than me screwing around.

  2. On the other hand, that approach would work fine in a time travel novel of some sort...


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