Zombies and the Doctrine of Universal Monstrosity
Welcome to the detailed (and 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:
And so but anyway, back to Narrator-Matt and his return to the neighborhood. (I'm skipping over a bit of EMS-and-hospital material, because basically it just establishes that Reverend Martin looks set to make a complete recovery, and Luther is miraculously unharmed; he isn't even burned.) Narrator-Matt returns home to find that his house his overrun with zombies... who are doing his yard work for him.
This is, to my mind, absolutely the best sort of zombie one might hope to encounter. Narrator-Matt, however, has had enough of monsters and unexplained events, and sneaks off to his shed... which is almost empty, since the zombies are already using all the tools. Armed with a broom, he steps out to do battle... only to discover that the zombies are thrilled to see him, call him "Master," and only want to serve him. Narrator-Matt, unfortunately, has already set to whacking the zombies with the broom, so we're treated to another little bit of slapstick when the zombies decide that, in keeping with the Golden rule, they are ethically required to beat up Narrator-Matt as well.
Fortunately, Robert The (Half-)Zombie - the one Luther and Narrator-Matt originally collected from Dr. Bokor's Zombie Church - intercedes, and take Narrator-Matt over to Lara's house to recover. Apparently Robert has convinced the other zombies that Narrator-Matt is a great master, so they've left Dr. Bokor to follow Matt instead. "It took a while to convince them that you were a mad scientist," Robert explains. "But I eventually got through to them."
Narrator-Matt, of course, vehemently denies being a mad scientist. And as a reader, I had much the same reaction - but for an entirely different reason. See, way back in the beginning of the book, when Narrator-Matt was establishing his bona fides as a monster-hunter by way of explaining to Dr. Culbetron and Hibbs 3000 that he (Matt) should be in charge of the werewolf hunt... well, he mentioned in passing that he has an extra half-vertebra in his back. And one of the recurrent themes in this book has been that We Are All Monsters. So all this time I've been expecting the Big Reveal about Narrator-Matt to be that he's actually an Igor - a hunchback who goes around helping out more powerful monsters, mad scientists, etc.
But, no. Lara The (Half-)Vampire explains why Robert has tagged him as a mad scientist instead: "You have all the classic signs, Matt. You think you're smarter than other people. You have your little knot of henchmen. You're trying to fix the world around you whatever the cost, never thinking of the damage you're doing." ... "You even have monsters following you around and doing your bidding."
I can actually see that, if I squint a little. Aside from Robert, I'm not at all sure that "henchmen" is an accurate description of Narrator-Matt's little group - they all seem to operate pretty independently, and in several cases have gone directly against his wishes to save him from the consequences of his own bad judgement - but they've all been working together and at least sometimes following Matt's lead, so I'll let that slide. The big issue I had was that Narrator-Matt is missing a critical element of being a mad scientist: the science. So in terms of classical horror-movie Big Bads, I wouldn't call him a mad scientist. He's closer in some ways to an Evil High Priest. (Admittedly, that impression may be creeping in from that one Dungeons & Dragons adventure in my childhood, but still...) On the other hand, he doesn't seem terribly well-versed in Christian thought and doctrine, either - he keeps having to look things up, or consult with other people, or stop and consider relatively simple issues - so I think I'm going to stick with the type of monster I originally expected him to be revealed as: he's an Igor, a lab assistant who wants to be in charge.
But Lara hands Matt a mirror, and looking into it he has to admit that he does, at least, look the part of a mad scientist. Admittedly, that's partly because the zombies have dressed him in a lab coat, but apparently he's got the wild-eyed and frizzy-haired parts down, too. And, as Lara points out, he's been neglecting his family for his work. So, yeah, deciding that Matt's a mad scientist of sorts isn't too big a stretch.