by Seth Grahame-Smith
Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, tackles the nativity story in a far more thoughtful novel than fans of his earlier fiction might expect. Here, the three wise men are re-imagined as a band of dangerous criminals led by Balthazar, the infamous "Antioch Ghost." On the run, first from King Herod's forces and later from the Romans, the trio find themselves aiding a young Jewish couple and their oddly calm baby. Part of the fun in this kind of adaptation comes from picking out recognizable elements from the original story, and Grahame-Smith includes plenty here. Along with some great new characters, we also run across the ambitious Pontius Pilate, a young John the Baptist, and vile King Herod himself. We find out how our anti-heroes were mistaken for "wise men" and the story behind the frankincense and myrrh. I approached Unholy Night expecting a fast-paced adventure story, and I wasn't disappointed on that front. The book is filled with action, a practically biblical amount of violence, and of course, zombies. But the action is driven by a fascinating main character. Balthazar, first introduced as a rogue, a thief and a murderer, provides a strong emotional core for the story. His moving back-story, along with his struggle to remain atheist in the presence of miracles, make this book more engaging than your average zombie mashup.