Unholy Night

Seth Grahame-Smith
Unholy Night Cover

Unholy Night


Pretty much anyone who has not been hiding under a rock knows at least the basic story of the birth of Jesus. But for those who have been rock hiding here it is:

Mary was a teenage girl engaged to joseph, a carpenter. An angel came to Mary and told her that even though she was a virgin and a good Jewish girl, the angel was going to impregnate her with the spirit of God, you know literally.

Well Joseph still married her even though she was "damaged goods" because Joseph also had a little visit from God. When Mary was "great with child" Rome, which Judea was under the rule of, called for a census to be taken. All males and their families were required to travel to the city of their birth and register. Joseph packed up his VERY pregnant wife (AMA I'm guessing) and traveled from Nazareth to his home town of Bethlehem. When he got there, every inn and tavern was full because of the census. An innkeeper felt sorry for the young couple and allowed them to stay in his barn. And Mary gave birth to Jesus there. Three wise men "from the east" are drawn to the stable by the "Christmas star." They recognize Jesus as their King and give him gifts of Gold Frankincense and Myrrh.

This is the story most people are spoon fed every Christmas. Only people who actually study the bible or have a truly brutal religious leader know that this is only half the story.

After Jesus was born Herod, the King of Judea learns from his mages, that the "Real King" has been born and his leadership is in jeopardy. To protect his rule, he ordered all male children born in and around Bethlehem 2 years and younger killed. This is called the "Slaughter of the Innocent." Joseph is warned by an angel to get Jesus into Egypt and keep him there until Herod is no longer in power.

The entire story of Jesus birth and escape into Egypt is less than one page in the bible. But in Unholy Night, Seth Grahame-Smith manages to expand the story into 300 pages. I picked up this Audiobook as some light Christmas reading. I mean we are talking about the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and How to Survive a Horror Movie. I figured I was in for a little tongue in cheek humor at Christianity's expense. Although I am a Christian, I'm ok with poking a bit at the faith.

Imagine my utter shock when I realized Mr. Smith wrote this book straight. This is the story of the birth of Jesus from the point of view of the Three Wise Men, specifically Balthazar. Almost nothing is known about these three men, except for what I have listed above. This allowed Mr. Smith to weave a gripping tale about these men, who were actually three criminals who met in a Roman jail and were together by chance.

I have to say, that I loved this book, after I got over the shocks contained in it. This story is violent. I mean "Passion of the Christ," "Reservoir Dogs" violent. If this story is ever made into a movie, I hope Quentin Tarantino directs it. But the thing is, the bible is full of violence and Because Seth Grahame-Smith wrote a story that does not try to change what is to many Christians one of the most sacred stories in the bible, it works for me.

This is not a Christmas story per say, Balthazar and the other wise men do not become true Christians at the end of the book, although Balthazar is fundamentally changed by his contact with the Christ Child and is forever changed. He does find a sense of peace and grows as a person by the end of the novel, and in this it is a glorious story of redemption in the grand tradition of Dickon's immortal A Christmas Carol. All and all, I have to say that I was blown away by this book. I did not expect something so moving from this author.