“The Bible said they were wise men… It didn’t say they were nice.”

So teases the brilliantly animated trailer for Seth Grahame-Smith’s most recent contribution to literature, Unholy Night, the newest from the author who brought the world Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

The story delves into the mystery behind the three wise men of legend – about whom history has little to say – who so famously delivered unto the newborn king gifts of golf, Frankenstein, and mirth.

Sorry – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Just as random.)

It reads like a… Well, imagine a mash-up of an unwritten chapter of Game of Thrones, the most intense theological conversation you’ve ever had while stoned, and um… The Bible, obviously.

And Assassin’s Creed.

Plus, since it’s Grahame-Smith, it contains a good deal of his particular brand of flippant, slightly sarcastic, pulp movie campy drama — meaning some of the language and behavior seem out of place, but somehow only manage to add to the wonderful atmosphere that the author likes to create in his worlds — that feeling that you’re walking through an unfamiliar chapter of history, but it’s okay because you always belonged there. It’s an unsettlingly anachronistic sensation at times, like stepping from a time machine and seeing someone with an iPod, but it is a literary invention that Grahame-Smith has perfected and does not allow to distract from the brilliance of his storytelling. It only makes it more enjoyable.

A huge departure from both the world of Jane Austen’s early nineteenth century, and Abe Lincoln’s time half a century later, Unholy Night transports the reader to a land much more distant and strange, to a place and time many people think about and perhaps even try to relive every Sunday, but could never hope to truly understand. He injects the excitement of sword-fights and chases and executions and grave robberies into the reverent tale of justice coming to a cruel king, of freedom coming to wise men, of a savior being born to an oppressed world.

It is a wild ride – often on the back of an exhausted camel – through everything you’ve ever known about the birth of Christianity, with a few scenic pit stops of embellishment to inspire the imagination. What if these men were no kings at all, but thieves and villains? Join the infamous “Antioch Ghost” and the other two “wise men” as their tale unfolds, which sees them first captured then escaped from Herod’s dungeons and racing across the desert with a familiar young couple and their oddly well-tempered newborn child, to find out.

It’s amazing what the mind can do with a little mystery. One built around one of the most significant, and most disputed, events in human history? Too good an opportunity to pass up for some storytellers – and the world of literature thanks Seth Grahame-Smith for his answer.

– THE DUEL CITIZEN

 

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