Written by: Vitina Molgaard
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
–Luke 2:10-12 – The New King James Bible
“During the time of King Herod, Wise men from the east came and asked.” Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
–Matthew 2:1 – The New King James Bible
Welcome once again…This time we’ll discuss Seth Grahame-Smith’s latest, Unholy Night. Smith is a man who likes to take a piece of history and turn it into dark historical revisionism. Nice word for transforming reality into fiction, eh? For what may well be the first time in history we’re going to get a very intimate look at the Three Wise Men… Herein lies the story you probably won’t find in any Bible.
As just noted, we’re introduced to The Three Wise men. But in this instance they come in the form of an infamous murderer and a pair of thieves. Our strongest protagonist (believe it or not, yes, these are the “good guys” of the story) is Balthazar, who’s known for his murderous ways. After a clever escape from King Herod’s prison he finds himself seeking shelter and while doing so meets a young Joseph, Mary and their young infant. Yes, the Joseph, Mary, and well, you know – Jesus.
We also run into the aforementioned King Herod, a youthful Pontius Pilate and even The Magi, which we learn is a mystic known as Magus. Magus belongs to a dying ancient cult that practices dark horrors and arts, and the goal is to see this miraculous baby turned into a corpse. Baby Jesus isn’t necessarily someone Balthazar would typically care for one way or the other, yet he’s compelled to make it his mission to guarantee this enigmatic bundle of joy doesn’t wind up a victim of Magus. At times relatively faithful to the source material, with a great number of additional intricacies and creations, Unholy Night is a twisted take on the Bible that still ultimately sees good make bid against evil.
Unholy Night proffers a very interesting twist, since no one has ever really known much about who or where the Wise Men came from. The story proposes a clever change from what has been implied about them in the past, and it should keep readers – religious or not – transfixed. Ask yourself this: What if the trio were to have been a murderer and two thieves who just happened to have stumbled upon Joseph, Mary and Jesus, inadvertently altering a different historical course? Now we’ve got something of an answer to such an interesting hypothetical.
This one is certainly unorthodox, but I enjoyed it immensely and found humor in the various character mishaps and miscalculations. Mr. Smith has provided us with other historical revisionism stories in the past, but language and atmospheric demands forced somewhat of a stricter reign on the manner in which those narratives were told. In this case he has much more freedom, and believe me, he takes full advantage.
I can’t really classify this as genre fare per se, though it does contain horror in the form of an abundance of violence as well as both magic and supernatural activity. This is one action filled story, and when all is said and done I’d recommend it with enthusiasm. Take the time and read this one, it’s another well-written tale from the unique mind of Seth Grahame-Smith.
Order Unholy Night right here.