Artwork by George Walker
Published by Biting Dog Press
I admit I was a bit late to the party as far as being a fan of Brian Keene. Not that I didn’t like him, but until recent years, I’d never read any of his work. I’d heard a lot of good things; I’d just never gotten around to it. When I finally did get a chance to read some of his work, it was a religious themed novella titled Take the Long Way Home, and it lived up to everything I’d heard about him.
So when I received an email from the guys over at Biting Dog Press about a Brian Keene novella they were putting out in special edition, I was definitely looking forward to it. Ironically enough this novella, The Resurrection and The Life, is also religiously themed, which you might be able to guess from the title. I say “ironically” because while I’ve read several of his other works and religion seems to often play a part in the story, both of these are very strongly based in the dogma of the Christian religion … and they’re both getting reviewed by the pagan girl. Sorry, that just gives me a little chuckle.
But on to important things! The Resurrection and The Life features some pretty recognizable characters, one of which, the demon Ob, Keene fans will remember from The Rising. The main character is probably the most recognizable figure in the world: Jesus Christ. That’s right … Keene has taken a well-known story from the Bible, that of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and given it his own horrific twist.
The good news is, though Ob is a recurring character from some of Keene’s other works, you don’t have to have read them to follow this story. And you don’t need to be religious either. In fact, it might be better if you’re not. Deeply devout fans may be put off by some of the things that take place in the story. Not that Keene is at all disrespectful of Christianity. Without having met the man, I’d wager he’s probably a religious man himself, if not a church-goer. The fact that religion plays such a large role in several of his books, and how knowledgeable he is about it, makes it seem like it’s something that’s very much a part of his life.
In The Resurrection and The Life Keene tells the story of Jesus and his disciples, who have been chased out of Jerusalem on charges of blasphemy and have set up camp on the banks of the Jordon river just over the border to Judea. While Jesus teaches and spreads the word of God there, a messenger comes to tell him his friend Lazarus has become sick. By the time Jesus reaches the home of Lazarus and his sisters back in Jerusalem, Lazarus has been dead several days.
Basically, if you’re familiar with the Bible, Keene has rewritten The Book of John, Chapter Eleven (according to his forward), with a new twist. Lazarus isn’t the miraculously risen dead, but actually the undead — a corpse animated by the demon Ob. Horror’s first zombie. If you’re devout, I would recommend you not judge the novella by that basic description. Keene doesn’t use this story device just for shock factor. There is a message behind his telling of the tale that makes it much less sacrilegious than it sounds offhand. I don’t think I could really say the characters are accessible, although they are well written, but reading The Resurrection and The Life is very much like reading a bible story … and therefore feels like it is more about the message than getting involved with the characters. Jesus, though, is written very realistically, which is a good thing for a son of God. It doesn’t come across as preachy or heavy-handed, which I think is how Keene manages to not alienate readers with the very religious theme.
Keene’s usual “everyman” style of writing is set aside in this instance for a more Biblical style of storytelling that helps make this feel all the more authentic. There aren’t a whole lot of scares or even gore (though there is a bit that briefly describes zombie Lazarus’ rampage), but I would say this falls firmly within the genre. Along with Keene’s solid writing, each edition is accompanied by some great looking woodcuts by artist George Walker.
The volumes are a little more pricy than your standard paperback, but it would be blood money well spent. Though the subject matter may not be everyone’s cup of tea, for those of you who think it sounds like a blast, this volume would be a great addition to any horror library. If you’re interested in picking up a copy, check out the Biting Dog Press website. However, this is a limited edition release, so they may have already flown off the shelves. If not and you have the scratch, you might want to get your hands on a copy.
Like I said, I was late to the Brian Keene fan party, but now that I’ve arrived, I think I’ll be hanging around for a while.
3 1/2 out of 5
Discuss The Resurrection and The Life in our forums!