If you don’t think that monsters are a big deal, you need not look any further than the Young Adult fiction section of your local library, prime time television or anything Twilight related. Everywhere you turn there is some fabled beast slouching toward Bethlehem. So it’s not surprising that Christian publishers have gotten into the mix (besides this book I can think of two other recent publications which explore the theme).
Matt Mikalatos has written an interesting book about Spiritual transformation using ‘monsters as a metaphor for our Spiritual maladies. Without giving the whole plot away, here is the basic premise: Matt, as the self-appointed and sole Neighborhood Watch patrol person discovers the existence of monsters in his neighborhood when he comes upon a Mad scientist (eccentric genius) and a robot (ahem…android). The mad scientist’s experiment is supposed to repel and cure werewolves but instead sends a werewolf and zombies streaking through the neighborhood. Matt joins forces with the mad scientist and robot to capture the werewolf (who is a Lutheran non-Christian named Luther Martin) who happens to be a neighbor. Their capture attempt fails but the three of them try to help Luther cure himself from being a werewolf. There attempts bring them into contact with a church full of zombies, an (almost)ex-vampire who Matt went to high school with, and horror of horrors, a psychologist.
So there you have it. Admittedly I was disappointed that though the title eludes most specifically to zombies, they are not the focus of the narrative (though certainly significant). The story instead focuses mostly on the werewolf, but the monster phenomenon in general. Mikalatos is interested in what the monsters tell us about our sinful, fallen nature. This isn’t novel to him, most great monster literature from Dracula, Frankenstein to Dr. Jeckle, Mr. Hyde reflect on human nature and the inner psychology of the monster. What Mikalatos does is explore the theme from an explicitly Christian perspective. The central theme of this book is that our own monster-like-tendencies are only overcome through a transforming encounter with Jesus Christ. This is good theology. It is only through Jesus that we are fully human (though the second Adam, he is the prototype of the new Humanity of which Adam is merely a Type). There is even a self-diagnostic inventory at the back of the book, so you could discover your own monstrous tendencies (or more likely just diagnose your friends).
But is it good fiction? Well I doubt Mikalatos will win any literary prizes this was a fun, and insightful read (in real life Mikalatos works with college students so he may have more experience with monsters than most of us). I found myself wondering at one point if the Matt Mikalatos in the story (he is a character in his own novel) had a job because he seemed to be free to just drop everything and give copious amounts of time to hunting and helping monsters. Oh well, the whole plot of the book strains credibility but it doesn’t take it self too seriously. Mikalatos fills it with self-effacing humor keeping the tone light.
SPOILER: One thing I really appreciated was the fact that Luther Martin is transformed at the end of the story, doesn’t mean that his life was necessarily easier to deal with. It would have been easy to spin this into a self-help, over come your inner demons and succeed in life sort of narrative. Mikalatos doesn’t do that, but is true to how difficult the Christian life remains for those of us who have experienced real transformation.
Tyndale Was gracious enough not only to provide me a copy of this for review, but is allowing me to offer this book as a giveaway prize. If you are interested in receiving a copy of this book, comment below (you may want to tell us what sort of mythical monster you most relate with).