Sway the Vote — “Unholy Night”

It’s time to Sway the Vote! Ellen India, Adult Services Coordinator for the Sarasota County Library System, wants you to vote for Unholy Night, and here is why…

Full disclosure. I didn’t actually read “Unholy Night”, I listened to it. I did make sure to check out the Unabridged version from the library, with 8 discs, so that I wouldn’t miss a word. The audiobook is read by Peter Berkrot, who is an actor and an accomplished audiobook reader, so I felt like he would do the story justice. I love audiobooks, they help me to multitask so that I can go about my business AND catch up with a book at the same time. If they’re really good, I have been known to sometimes idle my car in the parking lot outside at work, or the grocery store, or wherever I’m going, because I just have to hear a little bit more, I can’t wait.

Ok, before I can really talk about the book, you need to know a little about the Author, Seth Grahame-Smith. He first gained some attention when he wrote “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. It was a huge hit. A mere two months in the writing, it sold a million copies and was translated into twenty languages

This sparked an interest for more “mash-up” fiction, and that launched a new “historical revisionism” genre of popular fiction, which eventually led to “Unholy Night”. As you can imagine, this is NOT the traditional tale of the Three Wise Men. As Grahame-Smith explains, “the goal is to make you suspend your disbelief enough to allow you to get lost in the story and believe what you’re reading for a while.”

Knowing all of this, I was curious enough to give the story a shot. It is a work of fiction, with some basic similarities to the nativity story. In this version, the “Three Wise Men” were actually murderous thieves on the run from Herod. Disguised as priests, they stumble upon Joseph, Mary and the baby. The last thing these criminals on the run need is to be slowed down by this family trio, but when the leader of the group Balthazar (the narrator of the story) realizes they have a common mistrust in Romans, Balthazar steps up to protect this family from Herod’s “Slaughter of the Innocents”.

There’s lots of graphic violence and plenty of wild scenarios that follow, with a hint towards the supernatural as well. From what I’ve read about the author this is his trademark-adding in enough action sequences to entice readers that maybe would not have normally read the book (which is why I guess he added in zombies to Jane Austen’s work). But as one reviewer said, “This novel has a high body count, although it’s nothing compared with its source material.”

The Bible actually has very little about “the wise men”, no mention of even how many there were or what their names were. The author has filled in the gaps with other writings and his own imagination. When all is said and done, however, the reader should come away with a fairly accurate (with some notable exceptions I won’t reveal) idea of what life was like for the Judeans during Herod’s rule. I felt his treatment of Joseph, Mary, and the baby was respectful. The story’s protagonist, Balthazar, is not a man of faith. He openly criticizes Joseph and Mary for their beliefs, and yet…as he often says in the book, “There is something about that baby.”

As Grahame-Smith explains, “This isn’t a Christian book but it is a pro-faith book in the sense that if you look at Balthazar he goes from non-believer to believer and in the process he heals himself and begins to understand the power of faith. That was very important. I wanted people who didn’t have any faith to read it and say ‘Wow, what a fun ride.’ Then I wanted people who were deeply faithful to read it and say ‘Wow that touches me in a positive way on a spiritual level.’ That wasn’t an easy thing to try to do. That’s what I tried for better or worse to do with the book.”

For me, the story is a lot like life. People come and go with different opinions and beliefs. Things happen, sometimes miraculous and incredible things. The book doesn’t try to sway you one way or the other in terms of faith. Like other books, you read and you interpret. And…you ponder.

Now it’s time for you to decide. Vote now for the next One Book! Elect to Read!

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