Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Unholy Night" by Seth Grahame-Smith

307 pages

We all know the story of Jesus Christ's birth: more than 2,000 years ago, a virgin mother-to-be and her devoted husband traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where the baby was born in a manger because there was no room at the nearby inn. Soon after, the baby and his parents were visited by three wise men bearing gifts because they knew the child was the son of God. Well, Unholy Night tells a version of this well-known story that you definitely haven't heard before. The wise men who visited Jesus aren't the real magi--they are three criminals who manage to escape the gallows by trading places with the actual wise men and escaping into the desert. There they meet Mary, Joseph, and their tiny child, but they have no clue that the baby is the Messiah--in fact, they don't even believe it when they are  told. Still, they choose to stick with the family as they journey to Egypt to escape Herod, and their lives are changed forever. 

This book is completely different from what I thought it would be, in nearly every way. After reading Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I expected irony and plain old goofiness that would make me laugh out loud. Unholy Night isn't really like that. There are a few moments that are a little silly, but for the most part, I think, it lacks the humor of Grahame-Smith's other work. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, though, because actually I liked it quite a bit. I don't think he intended for it to be like his other books--he wanted to tell a different kind of story. And an interesting story it is. Surprisingly, it's not nearly as sacrilegious as I expected. I didn't feel like it ever poked fun at religious belief or even indicated that Jesus wasn't actually the Messiah. It basically just told another version of the story. There are some really good twists in the plot (my favorite involves the fate of the two "wise men" who betray Mary, Joseph, and Jesus) and a satisfying ending. Even though it wasn't what I expected, Unholy Night pleased me just the same. 

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