Book Review: UNHOLY NIGHT (2011)
But it’s awesome! Seth Grahame-Smith is the guy responsible for one of my favs, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, which was turned into a live action film recently. This time around, Grahame-Smith does another mash up of a fictionally historical tale… taken straight from the Good Book.
UNHOLY NIGHT revises the famous ‘story’ (yea, that’s what I’m calling it) of the Three Wise Men who come for Jesus’ birth during the famous Manger scene that we see every Christmas in storefront displays in malls. However, Grahame-Smith totally fictionalizes the entire story as a period action-adventure.
In UNHOLY NIGHT, the Three Wise Men are nothing more than wanted fugitives, who happen upon the young Virgin mother, the famous baby and the innocent farmer. Through brutally violent circumstances, the three Criminals and the three innocents, venture out into a mutually beneficial road trip, all of them fleeing persecution for different reasons. That’s it! That’s the story!
Forget the fact that it’s a fictional retelling of one of the most famous stories out there. Forget the fact that the story and portrayal might even be borderline offensive, with derisive debates about Mary’s honesty as conceiving ‘God’s baby. But the Title character of Balthazar, the man who leads the three criminals, is amazingly well developed. Thereby making the story that much more exciting and intriguing, despite the ‘real life’ inspiration it’s based on.
The story really is about Balthazar, a famous thief, with a dark past who gets tangled up in the Regimes’ quest for a mythical baby that will overthrow all kingdoms (we know he does… but that’s not important). Balthazar, due to a long dormant conscience, decides to protect baby Jesus and his ‘parents’ while they flee from the Empire trying to kill them.
During this fugitive drama, we also find out more about Balthazar (thief with a heart of gold basically) and his tortured motivations for doing what he is. There are very cool tidbits of historical facts thrown in throughout the story, which enhance the fictional mash-up qualities that much more.
Other than that, it’s a pretty simple and straightforward story, written very well. The pacing never lets down, and keeps one interested in the story and in the moment. The Action sequences are written quite well; as to not confuse the reader about what’s happening.
One cool thing, which Grahame-Smith does with UNHOLY NIGHT, is the dialogue, narration and inner thoughts. It’s not new, however the author does a great job of coupling the narration with the character’s own thoughts. It’s a 3rd person narrative, but through out, we’ll get italics of the Character’s thoughts during the narration. Almost as if there’s an interaction between the narrator and the character. Small glib remarks usually, however, the character’s thoughts are sometimes in direct response to the 3rd person narration going on. It’s a very cool and innovative technique, which fleshes out the story that much more.
All in all, UNHOLY NIGHT is similar to ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. It’s not a award winning book, however a great quick read for anyone into the whole action/adventure stories… with a little bit of historical fiction mixed in. I doubt we’ll see a film adaptation of this anytime soon though…